Diego Simeone pulled off the impossible during the 2012-13 season in defeating bitter rivals and gargantuan spenders Real Madrid to win the Copa del Rey title.
In doing so, the Argentine brought a trophy back to the Vicente Calderon that Atletico Madrid had not won for 17 years, firmly re-establishing his side as one of Spain’s biggest powers once again.
However, if the Madrid outfit really want to break up the Spanish monopoly that Barcelona and Real have developed on La Liga matters, their resolve will be tested once more in the King’s Cup.
The biggest and sorest difference between Atletico’s lineup and the one that took the field in the Spanish capital in May is Radamel Falcao.
Not long after his club’s Copa del Rey success, the Colombian international’s move to AS Monaco was confirmed and with him one of the most consistent goal threats in all of world football.
However, Simeone has done a terrific job in ensuring that his side hold onto their biggest talents after such an impressive 2012-13 campaign, with Falcao still the only substantial departure.
Aside from departures, the club have actually improved their squad on the whole. Additionally, the increasingly valuable presence of summer pickup David Villa is bound to impact the competition, having begun the season in prodigious form.
Combined with the signings of defensive pair Martin Demichelis and Jose Maria Gimenez, Simeone’s squad only looks deeper and deeper, meaning back-to-back titles may not be so impossible after all.
What’s The Same
Although Falcao’s 28 league goals were essential in guiding Atleti to a third-place finish in Spain’s top flight, it was Diego Costa who was their true hero in the Copa del Rey, tucking away no less than eight goals in the tournament.
This term, the Brazilian will look to not only defend his side’s crown but his Golden Boot honour as well.
11 - Diego Costa has scored 11 goals for Atletico in 30 shots in La Liga in this year 2013 (Radamel Falcao has 11 in 51). Predator— OptaJose (@OptaJose) August 25, 2013
Thankfully, Los Rojiblancos have also managed to convince Chelsea in letting them hang onto goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois for another season, meaning the same prodigious Belgian guards their goal this time around.
Courtois lent his hands quite literally to shoring up the Atleti cause all on his own last season and was probably responsible for more than a point or two for his side.
The other impressive stars who’ve chosen to stick around under Simeone include, among others, Joao Miranda, Juanfran, Koke, Diego Godin and Luis Filipe, all of whom will again prove vital if Spain’s “Big Two” are to be toppled once again.
Early Season Form
Currently tied for top spot alongside Barcelona, Athletic Bilbao, Villarreal and of course Real Madrid, Atleti have looked solid in their opening encounters, scoring eight and conceding just the one goal.
With Costa and Villa leading the assault up top and with Courtois, Miranda and others making a fine work of matters at the back, the squad looks well rounded in its early approach.
Are Atletico Madrid capable of holding Barca and Real at bay for another Copa del Rey?
Having said that, it’s no secret that it’s the big games that decide these campaigns, and Atletico’s next fixture away to Real Sociedad will give us a truer idea of just how the club might fare in the Copa del Rey.
Juggling the needs of multiple competitions is something not every squad can handle, and by the time Atletico kick off their title defence, we’ll have a much better grasp of just what the reigning champs can hope to pull off in the coming months.
There’s no bones about it: Atletico Madrid face a tremendous task in winning the Copa del Rey for the second consecutive campaign this season, but they have all the tools necessary to do so.