Don’t look now, but Spain may not be ruled by Real Madrid and Barcelona any longer. This offseason, Valencia and Atletico Madrid made a ton of moves in order to compete for both La Liga and Champions League glory. The two sides finished in the top four of La Liga last year, ensuring a spot in the Champions League and the financial windfall that comes with it. These two clubs will kick off their La Liga campaigns on a Monday night primetime showdown in Valencia.
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Valencia CF vs. Atletico Madrid
Date and Time: August 20, 2018, 2 p.m. ET
Location: Mestalla, Valencia, Spain
US Television Coverage: beIN Sports
Betting Line: Atletico Madrid PK -133, O/U 2
Valencia played three exhibition matches at the tail end of July and three more at the start of August to prepare for the start of the La Liga campaign. The club mostly played reserves at the tail end of July and had some so-so results. The Bats beat Galatasaray, drew with FC Lausanne, and lost to PSV Eindhoven in those three matches.
Their three matches in August were more in line with what you would expect from Valencia. They drew with Leicester City in their first exhibition match, but then Valencia followed that up with wins over Everton and Bayer Leverkusen. Those are good results heading into the start of the season.
Atletico Madrid participated in the International Champions Cup, but they didn’t take the exhibition tournament too seriously. However, the club was very motivated heading into its UEFA Super Cup tilt with rival Real Madrid. Diego Costa had an incredible outing in Atletico Madrid’s 4-2 win in extra time, notching a brace in regulation and setting up another goal in extra time. Atletico are looking to keep that momentum going.
This summer, Atletico Madrid broke the bank on Monaco winger Thomas Lemar. The club spent 70 million Euros to acquire the youngster, and the hope is that he can free up space for Costa and Antoine Griezmann with his runs up and down the sidelines. Atletico didn’t stop there though, also snagging midfielder Rodri, right back Santiago Aras, forward Nikola Kalinic, and goalkeeper Antonio Adan.
Valencia lost one of their best players over the summer, but they found a way to improve despite losing right back Joao Cancelo to Juventus. The club acquired central midfielders Geoffrey Kondogbia and Daniel Wass, fullbacks Mouctar Diakhaby and Cristiano Piccini, and forwards Kevin Gameiro and Michy Batshuayi. It may take some time to develop chemistry, but that’s an impressive list of signings.
Even though this is the start of the season, there are still injuries to discuss. Valencia may not have Gameiro available for this match, as he just completed his transfer from Atletico Madrid. He has not been able to develop a rapport with his new club, but he will be of value due to his familiarity with Atletico.
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Valencia could get another big boost to their formation if midfielder Francis Coquelin is cleared to play before the game. Coquelin was acquired from Arsenal last winter, but he ruptured his Achilles tendon shortly after joining the club and was lost for the rest of the year. He is a solid defensive midfielder, and he has the ability to break up Atletico’s attack if available.
With that being said, it’s hard for me to go against Atletico. Diego Simone may have put together a special unit, as La Liga’s best defense from last season is now paired with a threatening offense. The trip of Lemar, Griezmann, and Costa are going to make their mark in a win for the road team.
Spanish La Liga Prediction: Atletico Madrid 2, Valencia 0
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