What We Learned from Atletico Madrid's North American Tour

Paul Wilkes@@paulwilkesfootyFeatured ColumnistJuly 31, 2014

Athletico de Madrid poses with the winner's trophy after defeating the San Jose Earthquakes Sunday, July 27, 2014, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Beck Diefenbach)
Beck Diefenbach/Associated Press

The pre-season is a necessary part of a football club's life, and for the bigger sides it's a chance to reach out to their worldwide supporters.

Atletico Madrid opted to appear in the Copa EuroAmericana, which is held in various countries in South America and parts of the United States, for the second year running.

There are other places they could have visited in a bid to attract more sponsorship or sell more merchandise, but for manager Diego Simeone it's about continuity in areas which helped them reach their achievements.

The Argentine informed the club's official website:

We’re competing in this tournament in which we took part last year, which was very gratifying because of the competence we had in the preparation, which helped when facing the season that went as well as it did. So that’s why we’re repeating.

The familiarity certainly makes sense after the club won the league and reached the European Cup final.

There are players who were present 12 months ago, along with those who have recently signed this summer.

The tour itself wasn't just a chance to improve players' match fitness and for Simeone to try out new tactical ideas.

It was an opportunity for some of the recent purchases to integrate on and off the pitch.

The squad will have a different look next term, and not just because of the replacements for the senior players.

A number of youngsters were sent out on loan, and they will now get an opportunity to impress and show their ability.

Strikers Leo Baptistao and Borja Baston returned from Real Betis and Deportivo de La Coruna, respectively, whilst defensive midfielder Saul Niguez spent time with local side Rayo Vallecano.

The case for Niguez is particularly interesting with the physically imposing holder appearing as a centre-back for the majority of his time at Rayo.

His distribution and strength meant that he endured a successful period, and it was thought that he would cover in both these positions at the Vicente Calderon.

In the match with Club America in Mexico City, he was deployed as a No. 10.

This can be effective as way of stopping the opposition's deep-lying playmakers or as a way of holding up the ball when not playing with a traditional striker.

As Raul Garcia was the forward, this was the case here, and the former Osasuna attacking midfielder is a prolific goalscorer for his role.

Simeone using Garcia as a false nine makes sense as an alternative to the direct style of Mario Mandzukic.

Although, it's likely that Simeone is still in the hunt for another striker to replace the outgoing David Villa, so it could have just been a stopgap for this particular match.

The opening encounter with San Jose Earthquakes was short of action, with Atletico winning on penalties being the highlight in the 0-0 draw.

However, the game at the famous Azteca had a lot more excitement, which was befitting for the venue.

Captain Gabi described it as "one of the best fields in the world" when talking to the club website.

"We hope this match draws a lot of attention and that people can enjoy two great teams, it will be a great show for sure," he insisted prior to kick-off, and he was right.

Once again the 0-0 draw went to penalties with the Mexicans victorious on this occasion.

Simeone will be pleased with his team's resilience in keeping two clean sheets but will be alarmed by their lack of firepower with Mandzukic back in training only a week ago.

Though, with a number of players still to return and Antoine Griezmann arriving, there's still reason to feel optimistic.


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