Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid seem primed to battle La Liga giants Barcelona and Real Madrid for the title this season and are looking to flex their muscles against Europa League champions Sevilla on Sunday.
Atletico ripped apart city rivals Rayo Vallecano on Monday with a 7-0 triumph on the road, their largest ever away win, and bottom-of-the-table Sevilla visit without a single point on the board.
Jose Luis Mendilibar’s visitors to the Metropolitano stadium have lost their three opening league games for the first time since 1996.
Atletico are without injured forward Memphis Depay, who scored against Rayo but was then taken off with a thigh problem.
The French forward was crucial for Atletico last season as they enjoyed a stunning run of form in the second half of the campaign, which cooled speculation on Simeone’s future at the club.
The Madrid side were knocked out of the Champions League in a torrid spell before the winter World Cup in Qatar, but recovered brilliantly after.
Atletico once again looked the force which the Argentine led to La Liga triumphs in 2014 and 2021, giving credence to the idea they can seriously compete for the title again this season.
However Simeone, in his typical calm approach off the field — in the dug-out he is a whirlwind of emotion — played down his team’s chances.
“I will not change (my opinion) because of one game in which we were really efficient,” Simeone said after crushing Rayo.
“Madrid and Barcelona are better than the rest and work so that, when they slip up, we are there.”
During Atletico’s two title triumphs in his reign, the coach insisted his team move game by game, without setting their sights on bigger goals or objectives.
The Rojiblancos start the weekend second in the table, two points behind bitter rivals Real Madrid.
Sevilla started last season poorly and only freed themselves from the relegation battle after Mendilibar took over in March.
The no-nonsense coach took them back to basics and dragged them out of the mire, while also defeating Manchester United and Juventus to reach the Europa League final, which they won against Jose Mourinho’s Roma.
Sevilla president Pepe Castro defended Mendilibar against criticism this week.
“You have to have a little patience,” he told reporters.
“It has to be said that less than two months ago we were here celebrating a title and with this coach.”
Player to watch: Jude Bellingham (Real Madrid)
The England international has started his Los Blancos career in spectacular form with four goals in his first three league games. With key forward Vinicius Junior injured, there will be even more onus on the former Borussia Dortmund man to continue his goalscoring run.
Fixtures (times GMT)
Cadiz v Villarreal (1730), Almeria v Celta Vigo (2000)