Pre-season workouts continue around Europe and in Spain. With the start of the new Liga season drawing closer, Atletico Madrid are on home soil as they prepare to face Real Oviedo in a friendly.
Atletico, Liga champions in 2013/14 and runners-up in the Champions League that same campaign, have been busy in the transfer market this summer, attempting to bring in the majority of new faces before their pre-season campaign got underway in earnest. This will be their second game of the summer before they head off to Asia for games against opposition from Japan and China.
Real Oviedo, not seen in Spain's top flight since 2001, won their Segunda B group last term so have a campaign in Spain's second tier coming up for 2015-16, their highest placing in the league system since 2003.
The new campaign is still a few weeks away, so it will still be more about fitness and looking at personnel than the result at this point, but both Diego Simeone and counterpart Sergio Egea will be hoping to take the positives from the 90 minutes regardless.
Date: Tuesday, July 28
Time: 7 p.m. BST (2 p.m. ET)
Venue: Estadio Carlos Tartiere, Oviedo, Spain
TV Info: Canal+ Liga (ESP)
Live Stream: TBC
With Diego Simeone in place, Atletico Madrid have a distinct style and setup about the team. The busy nature of the club over summer highlights that perhaps they fell a little short last season compared to what the manager expected of them; including last season's Supercopa win, Atleti have won trophies in four consecutive campaigns, but they were off the pace as the title race went to the wire.
Attacking reinforcements have arrived in the shape of Jackson Martinez, Luciano Vietto and Yannick Ferreira Carrasco, giving Simeone great depth across the front line and wide-midfield positions. Of course, they are tempered by departures of Mario Mandzukic and Arda Turan, but the emergence of other talented youngsters will keep the squad hungry and very much capable of winning Liga games with regularity.
There will be plenty of interest in the likes of Oliver Torres, impressive on loan at Porto last season, while new defensive signing Stefan Savic has a battle on his hands to win a spot in the centre of defence ahead of Jose Gimenez, who has become Diego Godin's partner for club and country.
Atletico's only friendly so far this summer finished in a 2-0 win at Numancia, and despite much talk of Simeone switching to a 4-3-3 for the upcoming campaign, it was the usual 4-4-2 that began that match. The first game of the summer means little—result, performance or formation—but it was interesting to see the initial selections nonetheless.
Real Oviedo sealed their promotion back to the Liga Adelante after more than a decade away last season, finishing eight points clear at the top of their Segunda B group and going on to beat Cadiz and Gimnastic Tarragona in the play-offs.
Since then, they have been looking to recruit established players from the second tier or above, including Borja Gomez of Granada and goalkeeper Ruben Mino, formerly of Mallorca.
The club hit worldwide renown in 2012 when they were on the verge of going out of business and launched a share scheme that went viral, ending in over 30,000 people buying a stake in the club. The majority share is owned by Carlos Slim, one of the world's richest men.
Football journalist Sid Lowe spoke to CNN after promotion was sealed last season to describe the situation:
My personal reaction was, 'bloody hell, it's actually going to happen.' Nestor Susaeta, who took the corner that led to the goal, summed it up very well when he said 'in a way this is even bigger than getting promoted to the first division, because this is the impossible step'.
And it's true, getting out of the third tier, because of the way it's structured, was almost the hardest thing to do. I think the really important thing this year is the sense of everyone being involved, and the momentum building. An important factor in this has been the fact that the Carsa Group, Carlos Slim's company, has really led it this time. Over the last 18 months or so their involvement has been really big.
The long-term future, if the Carsa Group gets properly involved, is very bright indeed. There's investment behind it, but the club is becoming professionalized, and better organised, and that's brought with it a real sense of momentum.
As expected, Simeone changed his entire team around during the game against Numancia, using 24 players during the course of the 90 minutes, including a double change at centre-back after around only 25 minutes—not much can be taken from the fixture in terms of preference or level of fitness of the players.
Since that match, Jackson Martinez has been officially presented by the club so could be in line to make his debut, while it might be expected that some of those who played only the second half last time out—such as Raul Garcia, Gabi, Jesus Gamez—might feature from the start this time. Forward Angel Correa also took to the field for the first time as an Atleti player and scored the second goal in the 2-0 win.
The Argentinian youngster told the club's official website after the game that he believes he is capable of playing for Atletico, and of course that he was delighted to score.
Oviedo have also only played the one match so far, a 4-1 victory over Combinado AFE—usually a team of players without a club put together by the Spanish equivalent of the Professional Footballers' Association.
Boss Egea utilised a 4-2-3-1 with debutants Hector Verdes, Gomez and Carlos Pena all coming on at half-time, reported by El Comercio. Last season's top scorer, Miguel Linares, led the attack once more, but it was free-scoring midfielder Borja Valle who caught the eye and netted one himself.
Possible Starting Lineups
Real Oviedo (4-2-3-1): Ruben Mino; Nacho Lopez, Diego Johannesson, David Fernandez, Dani Bautista; Jonathan Vila, Edu Bedia; Nestor Susaeta, Hector Font, Borja Valle; Miguel Linares.
Atletico Madrid (4-4-2): Miguel Angel Moya; Jesus Gamez, Stefan Savic, Diego Godin, Guilherme Siqueira; Saul Niguez, Koke, Gabi, Raul Garcia; Jackson Martinez, Angel Correa.
Players to Watch
Real Oviedo: Miguel Linares
After hitting 26 goals in 36 regular-season league games for Oviedo to lead their promotion charge, striker Miguel Linares added two more in the playoffs to help his side assure themselves of a return to the second tier.
Now 31 years of age, Linares was a fairly irregular name on the scoresheet in the Segunda during his time with Elche and Salamanca and has spent most of his career bouncing between the second and third divisions in Spain. Last season was comfortably his most prolific to date, and as a more experienced player this time around, it will be intriguing to see whether he can make himself a regular scorer at this level.
Oviedo may yet improve the squad further, and he might face more competition for his place. But as the man who fired them to promotion last season, it's likely he'll get a chance to show his worth.
Atletico Madrid: Stefan Savic
Savic's arrival for €10 million plus Mario Suarez sees him likely to be the main threat to Gimenez's place in the team alongside Godin.
The Montenegrin was a success in Italy and is powerful, aerially strong and was signed by Atleti despite plenty of rumours circulating that they would opt for Antonio Rudiger, so he will need to hit the ground running and make an impact if he is to displace Gimenez, who looks composed, reliable and capable of great things.
Gimenez had a mammoth task of his own to oust Miranda from the team, the central partner for Godin who helped Atleti to silverware on many fronts for several seasons, but the Uruguayan youngster did it easily in the end. Savic now has to up the ante even more and help make Atleti a tough proposition to break down once again.
Prediction: Oviedo 0-2 Atletico