3 Targets for Atletico Madrid to Hit in 2016

Karl MatchettFeatured ColumnistJanuary 21, 2016

Atletico Madrid players celebrate a goal during the Spanish Copa del Rey (King's Cup) round of 16 second leg football match Club Atletico de Madrid vs CF Rayo Vallecano at Vicente Calderon stadium in Madrid on January 14, 2016.  AFP PHOTO / JAVIER SORIANO / AFP / JAVIER SORIANO        (Photo credit should read JAVIER SORIANO/AFP/Getty Images)
JAVIER SORIANO/Getty Images

Atletico Madrid have had an extremely satisfactory first half of the 2015-16 season, but they know much work still lies ahead if the campaign is to be considered a success.

The Vicente Calderon club are top of La Liga after 20 rounds of matches and have secured their place in both the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League and the last eight of the Copa del Rey—silverware is a very real possibility once again for Diego Simeone's men.

Here we identify three key targets for Los Rojiblancos to hit in 2016; if they do, they will undoubtedly be talked about in the same breath as last season's Barcelona side, and the likes of Bayern Munich, Juventus and Real Madrid over the last few years.

 

La Liga Chase: Another 45 points

Top of the table heading toward the end of January, it's fair to say that challenging for La Liga's title is the top priority for Atletico over the next few months.

Adding another 45 points to their current tally of 47 would yield 92 in total—the average tally won by the league winners in the past two seasons, and an improvement of two points from when Atleti themselves won the title in 2014.

Atletico Madrid players celebrate after scoring their second goal during the Spanish league football match Rayo Vallecano de Madrid vs Club Atletico de Madrid at Vallecas stadium in Madrid on December 30, 2015.   AFP PHOTO/ CURTO DE LA TORRE / AFP / CURTO
CURTO DE LA TORRE/Getty Images

That means an average of 2.25 points per game from here until the end of the season; in other words, they should aim for 14 or 15 more wins from the remaining 18 games.

They have done fantastically well so far—15 wins from 20 is more than anyone else—but the relentless nature of La Liga is such that a win ratio of 80 per cent is not uncommon to lift the title. Even 14 more wins puts them only at 77 per cent, so there is little margin for error.

 

Silverware: Copa, Champions, Supercups

Silverware doesn't only come from the league title, though, and there will be few sides who'll relish playing Atletico over two legs in Europe or domestically—it's hard enough to beat them once, never mind trying to avoid a beating on a combined score.

UEFA Champions League final ambassador  Javier Zanetti shows the name of  Athletico Madrid football club during the draw for the UEFA Champions league round of sixteen, on December 14, 2015 at the UEFA headquarters in Nyon.  AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI /
FABRICE COFFRINI/Getty Images

Celta Vigo are the Copa del Rey opposition, with Atleti having recently beaten them 2-0 in La Liga.

In the first leg, the two sides drew 0-0; given Celta have failed to hit the target at home in either game, Atleti will head into the second leg as strong favourites.

PSV Eindhoven shouldn't present too much trouble in the Champions League as long as minds are focused and bodies are fit for the Spanish side, but the quarter-final draw (and beyond) is as much about luck as it is quality—there's little you can do if Bayern Munich are on their game, Barcelona's front three hit the heights they are capable of...or Real Madrid score an 89th-minute winner, for example.

Atleti can compete against those sidesespecially over two legsand nobody will want to face them. A semi-final berth in Europe would represent significant success; from that point onward, anything can happen.

Of course, should they win any of those cups this year then further silverware immediately presents itself as a prospect in the latter half of 2016, with Spanish and European Super Cups to play for and, potentially, even the FIFA Club World Cup.

 

Renewals: Keep the core intact

One final key target for the club is to keep the spine and the core of the first team together, especially with the impending transfer ban.

It's not simply the likes of Antoine Griezmann and Koke who are importantplayers who have seen their names linked with moves away for a number of seasonsbut also those talented younger individuals who are within a big European performance of receiving wider acknowledgment of how good they are.

LISBON, PORTUGAL - DECEMBER 8:  Club Atletico de Madrid's goalkeeper Jan Oblak in action during the UEFA Champions League match between SL Benfica and Club Atletico de Madrid at Estadio da Luz, on December 8, 2015 in Lisbon, Portugal.  (Photo by Gualter F
Gualter Fatia/Getty Images

Jan Oblak is almost guaranteed to be a name on the lips of those who watch the latter stages of the Champions League. Saul has proved he has the ability to be a regular starter. Yannick Carrasco and Angel Correa, with a little consistency, are genuine match-winners. And, perhaps the real crown jewel as Diego Godin approaches his 30th birthday, Josema Gimenez is an absolute star.

All of those players, 20 to 23 years of age, can be the pillars of a new and improved Atletico side into next season, even if they are unable to sign any new faces over the summer.

Tie them down to extended deals, with much bigger release clauses, and the next iteration of this Atletico Madrid team is already set—and with it will come further chances to meet these big targets on a consistent, year-on-year basis.