Atletico Madrid Schedule 2014-15: List of Fixtures and Early Analysis

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Atletico Madrid Schedule 2014-15: List of Fixtures and Early Analysis
Francisco Seco/Associated Press

Now, the hard part begins for Atletico Madrid. The journey to the title was fun, but now, the club will have to fight tooth and nail to fend off the expected fall down the mountain.

Los Colchoneros gave their supporters a season to remember, upending the La Liga duopoly and becoming the first club outside of Barcelona or Real Madrid to win the league since Valencia in 2003-04. Even the Champions League final loss to their inner-city rivals couldn't dampen Atletico's historic season.

However, you get the feeling that Atleti's stay at the top may be a short one.   

On Thursday, the 2014-15 La Liga fixtures were released, as per the league's official website. It is the first chance Diego Simeone and Co. get to plot their title defence and identify the many potential pitfalls along the way:

Atletico Madrid 2014-15 La Liga Fixtures
Matchday Home vs. Away
1 Rayo Vallecano vs. Atletico Madrid
2 Atletico Madrid vs. Eibar
3 Real Madrid vs. Atletico Madrid
4 Atletico Madrid vs. Celta de Vigo
5 Almeria vs. Atletico Madrid
6 Atletico Madrid vs. Sevilla
7 Valencia vs. Atletico Madrid
8 Atletico Madrid vs. Espanyol
9 Getafe vs. Atletico Madrid
10 Atletico Madrid vs. Cordoba
11 Real Sociedad vs. Atletico Madrid
12 Atletico Madrid vs. Malaga
13 Atletico Madrid vs. Deportiva La Coruna
14 Elche vs. Atletico Madrid
15 Atletico Madrid vs. Villarreal
16 Athletic Bilbao vs. Atletico Madrid
17 Atletico Madrid vs. Levante
18 Barcelona vs. Atletico Madrid
19 Atletico Madrid vs. Granada
20 Atletico Madrid vs. Rayo Vallecano
21 Eibar vs. Atletico Madrid
22 Atletico Madrid vs. Real Madrid
23 Celta de Vigo vs. Atletico Madrid
24 Atletico Madrid vs. Almeria
25 Sevilla vs. Atletico Madrid
26 Atletico Madrid vs. Valencia
27 Espanyol vs. Atletico Madrid
28 Atletico Madrid vs. Getafe
29 Cordoba vs. Atletico Madrid
30 Atletico Madrid vs. Real Sociedad
31 Malaga vs. Atletico Madrid
32 Deportiva La Coruna vs. Atletico Madrid
33 Atletico Madrid vs. Elche
34 Villarreal vs. Atletico Madrid
35 Atletico Madrid vs. Athletic Bilbao
36 Levante vs. Atletico Madrid
37 Atletico Madrid vs. Barcelona
38 Granada vs. Atletico Madrid

Source: LFP

A Greater Challenge

Atletico can and will expect a tougher fight this term—not that last season's success was in any way easy. Barcelona have a new manager in Luis Enrique, who brings new desire and ideas. Carles Puyol's retirement has forced the club to address its back four with the signing of Jeremy Mathieu, which has been a problem spot for the past few seasons.

As for Real Madrid, now that La Decima has been completed, the club will surely focus more of its efforts on winning the league. Los Blancos shouldn't be throwing away the kind of silly points they did last year.

You're seeing it with the Bundesliga right now. Clubs have a short window for success in the few years that Bayern Munich struggle, but after a year or two, it's back to business as usual. Barca and Madrid will almost certainly take back the top two spots in the league.

Atletico are also replacing one of their best players with Diego Costa's transfer to Chelsea.

Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Back in April, Simeone told Spanish paper AS (via the Press Association, h/t The Guardian) that he and the club wouldn't stand in the way of any move: "It depends on him and what he believes is best for his future. I will support any decision."

Atleti have created an assembly line when it comes to forwards, having replaced Fernando Torres with Diego Forlan and Sergio Aguero, Forlan and Aguero with Radamel Falcao and then Falcao with Costa. The Brazilian's departure may be too much, though.

Key Games

Obviously, the first matches that jump out are those against Barcelona and then the matches against Real Madrid. In order to go back to back, Atletico will have to take points off of those two.

Last year, Atletico earned six points from those four fixtures. Their draw with Barca on the last day of the season won the title.

Andres Kudacki/Associated Press

Atleti's first two matches against Madrid and Barca will set the tone for how the rest of the season will unfold. Should they lose both, it doesn't automatically knock them out of the title race, but it could be a harbinger of things to come.

Solid form against their top two challengers won them the title, but their slightly weaker form against the midtable sides almost lost it.

Los Colchoneros' four league defeats came against Espanyol, Almeria, Osasuna and Levante. Osasuna were relegated, and Almeria finished a point above the drop zone.

You see this every season in Spain. One of the top clubs shockingly drops points to a lower side. Most of the time, those dropped points end up costing the club dearly.

Look at how important Real Madrid's two draws against Valencia and Real Valladolid and their loss to Celta Vigo ended up being. The same goes for Barcelona's defeats to Valladolid and Granada in the second half of the season.

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You cannot win the title against the likes of Granada, Rayo Vallecano, Getafe and Elche, but you can certainly lose it.

Simeone will have to ensure his players don't suffer any mental lapses in what are rather winnable matches.

Of course, all of these league fixtures will be balanced with Atletico's European adventures. Although they made the final last year and won the league title, repeating that kind of deep Champions League run will be extremely hard to do.

Simeone's system is extremely physically demanding, so between the World Cup this summer, La Liga and the Champions League, keeping all of the important players fit will be hard to do.

You saw it with Borussia Dortmund this past season. The 2013 runners-up were hammered by the injury bug and were subsequently knocked out in the quarter-final stage by eventual winners Real Madrid. Their Bundesliga challenge didn't last long either.

Repeating the magic of last year's campaign is nearly impossible for Simeone to do, but if he can keep the club in the top four, it will be a job well done.

Atletico Madrid

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