Diego Forlan believes that Atletico Madrid’s youth will give them the advantage over Barcelona and Real Madrid in the La Liga title race.
Atletico have made a perfect start to the season, becoming the only La Liga team to do so, and have already established leads over their rivals with just three games played.
Is this Atletico’s year? Five things to know…
- Atletico have not won La Liga since 2014.
- Only Real Sociedad (24.7) have a lower average age than Atletico (24.8) in La Liga, according to Transfermarkt.
- Only three teams have a higher average age than Real Madrid (27.6).
- Simeone’s men already have a four-point lead over Los Blancos…
- …and a five-point lead over reigning champions Barcelona.
Speaking to La Liga, Forlan was very positive about his former side’s chances at regaining the title this season.
He said: “They’re going to be fighting [for the title], they always fight. The gap is getting a little closer now. And those players that made history for Real Madrid and Barcelona, they’re getting older as well. That could be an advantage for Atletico Madrid.”
Though the average age of the 19 players Barcelona have used this season so far is a healthy 26.3, they have dropped five points without the 32-year-old Lionel Messi. Gerard Pique and Sergio Busquets, 32 and 31 respectively, are also still relied upon.
Forlan added: “Having a new team and renewing the team every season. Real Madrid and Barcelona are doing it a little slower than Atletico but they’re still in great shape. Great players with experience. We have to see, but I think Atletico Madrid are in a good position to fight for the title again.”
It is not just the youth that excites Forlan – it is everything about them thus far. Despite losing Antoine Griezmann to Barca, he believes their squad is more than good enough to compete.
He added: “I know that Real Madrid and Barcelona have great players but so do Atletico Madrid. They signed really good players, Joao Felix as I said, and Diego Costa is an experienced player, great talent.
“They’ve renewed the team with some great young players. They had a great pre-season and now we need to see how they do in the league. But they look really good. What they showed in the pre-season was interesting, great games against great teams.
“The derby against Real Madrid, I know it was a friendly but it was also a derby and nobody likes to lose by that kind of score [7-3].”
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Can Atletico really go all the way?
While Barca have dominated domestically, Real have dominated on the European stage in recent years. This has meant Atletico have often had to watch on enviously from third place.
However, there is a belief at the Wanda Metropolitano this year.
Real have endured a torrid 12 months and, despite spending big, still look to be a shadow of the team that had Ronaldo spearheading its attack. The injury of Hazard has not helped ease this pain.
Barcelona have strengthened but doubts over Valverde and the failed transfer of Neymar have somewhat overshadowed the champions. Griezmann and Frenkie de Jong are excellent acquisitions, but there seems to still be something missing in Catalonia.
By their high standards, Barca and Real are vulnerable. Atletico have strengthened (as well as selling, too) and may well think this could be their year.