Barcelona’s first La Liga outing of the season may have been faintly terrifying viewing for Atletico Madrid ahead of the clubs’ meeting at the Vincente Calderon in the Spanish Supercopa, but Los Rojiblancos own seasonal bow offers them hope of rewarding their 13/10 backers on Bwin’s Atletico +1 goal handicap.
England boss Roy Hodgson recently recalled a time when the triumphant Malmo side of his early days in management were likened by the Swedes to a self-paying piano and there must have been moments during the first half of Barca’s recent 7-0 win against Levante where new manager Gerardo Martino felt like he’d inherited a fully-mechanised orchestra, such was the Blaugrana’s polyphonic superiority over visitors that finished 11th in La Liga last term.
Martino’s men pressed much more ferociously than they had done under his predecessor Tito Vilanova and were rewarded with a massive 77.8 per cent of ball possession against the Valencia club; however Atletico’s first outing of the season showed that they have the smarts to subvert an opponent’s jealous protection of the orb.
Sevilla may have had 62.6 per cent of possession at their home ground, but Diego Simeone’s visitors – who boasted La Liga’s best defence last term – were able to soak up the pressure and come away with the victory, which bodes well for their travails against the ultimate ball-monopolisers.
That the first leg is a home game is a boon for Los Rojiblancos, who were rock solid at Vincente Calderon until running out of steam in the final weeks of last season, winning 19 successive outings there in all competitions.
Even when their home invincibility was lanced they were only ever beaten by one goal by domestic rivals (including a 2-1 defeat to Barca), suggesting that if they respond to the occasion by upping their game then they can at the very least hold their visitors.
Having won the last five trophies in which they’ve been present at the final hurdle (two Europa Leagues, two European Supercups and a Copa Del Rey) no one can accuse Simeone’s men of lacking the chops to do just that.