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

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJuly 24, 2014

Atletico supporters shout slogans, ahead of the Champions League final soccer match between Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid, at the Luz stadium,  in Lisbon, Portugal, Saturday, May 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
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
MatchdayHomevs.Away
1Rayo Vallecanovs.Atletico Madrid
2Atletico Madridvs.Eibar
3Real Madridvs.Atletico Madrid
4Atletico Madridvs.Celta de Vigo
5Almeriavs.Atletico Madrid
6Atletico Madridvs.Sevilla
7Valenciavs.Atletico Madrid
8Atletico Madridvs.Espanyol
9Getafevs.Atletico Madrid
10Atletico Madridvs.Cordoba
11Real Sociedadvs.Atletico Madrid
12Atletico Madridvs.Malaga
13Atletico Madridvs.Deportiva La Coruna
14Elchevs.Atletico Madrid
15Atletico Madridvs.Villarreal
16Athletic Bilbaovs.Atletico Madrid
17Atletico Madridvs.Levante
18Barcelonavs.Atletico Madrid
19Atletico Madridvs.Granada
20Atletico Madridvs.Rayo Vallecano
21Eibarvs.Atletico Madrid
22Atletico Madridvs.Real Madrid
23Celta de Vigovs.Atletico Madrid
24Atletico Madridvs.Almeria
25Sevillavs.Atletico Madrid
26Atletico Madridvs.Valencia
27Espanyolvs.Atletico Madrid
28Atletico Madridvs.Getafe
29Cordobavs.Atletico Madrid
30Atletico Madridvs.Real Sociedad
31Malagavs.Atletico Madrid
32Deportiva La Corunavs.Atletico Madrid
33Atletico Madridvs.Elche
34Villarrealvs.Atletico Madrid
35Atletico Madridvs.Athletic Bilbao
36Levantevs.Atletico Madrid
37Atletico Madridvs.Barcelona
38Granadavs.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.

VALENCIA, SPAIN - MAY 04:  Diego Costa (C) of Atletico de Madrid reacts as his team-mate Raul Garcia (R) fails to score during the La Liga match between Levante UD and Club Atletico de Madrid at Ciutat de Valencia stadium on May 4, 2014 in Valencia, Spain
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.

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.