As their local rivals can undoubtedly confirm, reports of the demise of Atletico Madrid appear to have been greatly exaggerated, as they’ve started the season in superlative fashion.
Los Colchoneros’ 2-1 win at the Bernabeu in La Liga followed fast on the heels of the victory over their neighbours in the Spanish Super Cup.
Such impressive results have undermined the belief that Atletico stood no chance of repeating last season’s success when they won La Liga and came within a whisker of the Champions League as well.
Their best players were prised away over the summer, most notably by Chelsea, who signed Diego Costa and Filipe Luis as well as ending Thibaut Courtois’ three-year loan spell at the Vicente Calderon.
However, Atletico’s own transfer business was impressive, with Mario Mandzukic and Antoine Griezmann in particular standing out as exciting new arrivals.
With the squad looking strong, Diego Simeone as impressive as ever, and early results demonstrating their ongoing class, Atletico’s price of 22/1 to win the Champions League looks bizarrely generous.
By negotiating their way past former champions AC Milan, Barcelona and Chelsea in the knockout rounds last season, Atletico confirmed their membership of Europe’s elite.
In three years under Simeone they have reached two European finals, winning the Europa League in 2011/12. They followed that up by smashing Chelsea 4-1 to win the Super Cup in 2012.
Los Colchoneros will also have the chance to start off their latest European jaunt with a relatively easy group.
Juventus are the sternest opposition they will face, but the Old Lady’s recent struggles in the Champions League – they exited at the group stage last season – and summer of upheaval will limit the threat they pose.
Elsewhere Olympiacos should be negotiated easily enough, while Malmo are highly unlikely to upset the Atletico applecart in their first appearance in the Champions League proper.
Simeone’s side begin their campaign away at the Greek side, a match they are 19/20 to win.