Antoine Griezmann's surprise return will be a huge boost to Atleti
Antoine Griezmann's surprise return will be a huge boost to Atleti

Atletico Madrid were top of LaLiga by November and held on to that position for the rest of the season.

A period between October and January saw them win 15 of 16 games, which built the platform for the club’s first league title in seven years.

Their one defeat during that period came against Real Madrid, who kept them on their toes until the end of the campaign.

But Atleti remained in pole position, despite their neighbours’ 18-game unbeaten run to finish the season, and qualified for the Champions League as Spain's No1 side.

Atletico Madrid's Champions League group

Group B: Atletico Madrid, Liverpool, FC Porto, AC Milan

Read more: Champions League guide — Group B in focus

European history

Always the bridesmaids, Atletico have finished runners-up in Europe's premier competition three times.

Their most recent Champions League finals in 2014 and 2016 saw them narrowly defeated by bitter rivals Real Madrid on both occasions.

Going further back, they took Bayern Munich to a replay in the 1973-74 European Cup — the only final to have been decided in such a manner — but lost 4-0 to the German giants in the second game.

Atleti boast plenty of Europa League pedigree, having won UEFA’s secondary competition three times, and will be looking to finally transfer that success to the Champions League this time around.

No team in LaLiga conceded fewer goals than Atletico Madrid as Koke led them to the title in 2020-21
No team in LaLiga conceded fewer goals than Atletico Madrid as Koke led them to the title in 2020-21

Expectations

Despite winning the league last season, Atleti are still going somewhat under the radar — largely due to the plight of Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Los Rojiblancos now boast three of the biggest stars in LaLiga in the shape of Luis Suarez, Jan Oblak and Antoine Griezmann after the legend's deadline-day return.

They go into this season’s Champions League as Spain’s top team and the most stable of LaLiga’s big three.

Atleti will at least be hoping to go further than last season when they were knocked out in the last 16 by eventual winners Chelsea.

Star man: Luis Suarez

Luis Suarez was lethal in front of goal in LaLiga last season
Luis Suarez was lethal in front of goal in LaLiga last season

Even at 34, the Uruguayan striker remains one of the game’s top centre-forwards.

He contributed 21 goals in 32 games to Atleti’s title win last season but failed to score in Europe — something he will be looking to put right this time around.

Suarez has a Champions League win to his name with Barcelona, and Colchoneros supporters will hope he can transfer that winning mentality to the rest of the Atletico squad.

His experience and will to win is vital to Simeone’s team, alongside his considerable talent and goalscoring ability.

One to watch: Joao Felix

When he joined from Benfica for £113million in 2019, Joao Felix became Atletico Madrid’s record signing by a considerable margin.

Now 21, there is a sense that the attacker is yet to live up to that fee. This could this be the season he does so.

Felix has been far from a bad signing but he was expected to kick on to another level that he has yet to find.

Now he is fully embedded in Simeone’s system, the Portuguese forward could become the star player Atleti need to go far in the Champions League.

Joao Felix will be looking to justify his huge price tag in the Champions League
Joao Felix will be looking to justify his huge price tag in the Champions League

The boss: Diego Simeone

Simeone is one of the most respected managers in European football.

The two Champions League finals he has reached in his near-decade with Atleti are more than Barcelona have appeared in during the same period.

Simeone has also lifted the Europa League trophy twice with Los Rojiblancos and won two LaLiga titles.

Despite constant rumours throughout his tenure that he will leave for pastures new, the Argentine will have been at the club for 10 years this December.

Atleti value Simeone as one of their most important assets and he undoubtedly views the club as being among the biggest European football — one he has constantly sought to make even more successful.

It is no surprise that their relationship has lasted a decade.

All information correct as of 11am, September 1, 2021

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