Atlético Madrid Must Show Credentials

Although normally overshadowed by their city neighbor Real, Atlético Madrid has one of the biggest fanbases in Europe and one of the the most potent attack forces on the Old Continent. As UEFA Europa League winners last term, Los Colchoneros will face Champions League winners Inter in an attempt to prove their first European title since 1986 was no fluke.

Since winning that Europa League Final in Hamburg, Atlético fell in the Copa del Rey Final against Sevilla, ending a bid to claim to trophies in one term, but president Enrique Cerezo and coach Quique Sánchez Flores have made a commitment to ensuring the club will continue to fight for important titles as the fanbase demands.

No one will expect Atleti to challenge Barcelona or Real Madrid for the La Liga crown just yet, but a place in the Champions League is the bare minimum for a talented squad. The first piece of business Cerezo and Flores made was to confirm Diego Forlán's continuance at the Vicente Calderón. The 31-year-old Uruguayan was the Golden Ball Winner at the World Cup where he helped his country reach the semifinals, and has twice won the European Golden Boot as the top scorer in European club soccer.

Also continuing will be Argentina international Sergio "El Kun" Agüero, who like Forlán had been linked to a move abroad, but in the end has remained at Atlético to form one of Europe's most deadly partnerships up front. The club has also decided to hold onto Portugal's Tiago, another star from South Africa 2010, who had been on loan from Juventus, but will now remain for another season. The aforementioned players will certainly be the protagonists and headline grabbers, but the most important moves came at the back.

Last year, as Atlético finished a disappointing ninth in the league, they had statistically the fifth worst defense in Spain, and it could have been worse had it not been for the heroics of young goalkeeper David de Gea. The major move was to bring in Forlán's international teammate Diego Godín, who had been at Villareal. Felipe Luís from Deportivo La Caruña has also come to the capital, and with those two key additions De Gea should be much more protected at the back.

But before La Liga kicks off and they set off to defend the Europa League title, comes the UEFA Super Cup in Monaco this Friday. A victory would not only add a nice piece of siverware to the trophy cabinet at the Vicente Calderon, but it could add much needed confidence to the squad by beating the best team in Europe at the moment.

The new defense will certainly be given an early season test against the likes of Diego Milito, Wesley Sneijder, and Samuel Eto'o, a bit of a trial before facing Barcelona and Real Madrid's finest over the long season. Perhaps more than anything, a victory would prove to the club and its fans that Atlético Madrid is a big club not only in terms of fanbase, but in terms of results.

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