Founded in 1903, Atletico Madrid are the current La Liga holders having ended an 18-year quest for the trophy back in May. Los Rojiblancos have won the league and the Copa Del Rey on ten occasions (plus a domestic double in 1995/96), as well as two Supercopa de Espana titles and the UEFA Europa League twice (including the inaugural competition in 2009/10). The side’s home kit is red and white vertical striped shirts, equipped with blue shorts and blue and red socks.
Since 1966, Atletico have played their home matches at the 54,960 seater Vicente Calderon, a ground which hosted three matches during the 1982 World Cup held in Spain. The club are pencilled in to move from their current dwelling to the 70,000 capacity Estadio La Peineta in 2016.
Route to UCL
Los Rojiblancos directly qualified for this year’s competition as La Liga winners. Last season’s run, in which they ended as beaten finalists to inter-city rivals Real Madrid, matched their 1973/74 best ever finish in the competition as runners-up.
Atletico, at present, sit joint-second with Valencia in Spain’s top flight with 14 points, two off early pacesetters Barcelona. The Madrid-based outfit are also unbeaten this season after registering four victories, including a famous 2-1 win over Real at the Santiago Bernabeu on 13 September, and two draws in the opening round of matches. This weekend’s La Liga contest saw them coast past high-flying Sevilla at the Vicente Calderon by a resounding 4-0 scoreline.
Atletico Madrid are currently under the tutelage of Diego Simeone.
A tough-tackling defensive midfielder during his playing days, he started out with Velez Sarsfield in his native Argentina before moving to Serie A with Pisa in 1992. El Cholo then made his way to La Liga, spending two years at Sevilla and three subsequent seasons at Atleti where he won the league title in 1996.
Inter Milan came calling in 1997, while he was on the move again in 1999, winning the Serie A and Coppa Italia domestic double at the first time of asking with Lazio.
On a side note, Simeone’s strike for the Biancocelesti in a 4-2 win over former employers Inter on the final day of the 2001/02 season ensured Juventus would end the campaign as champions of Italy for the 28th time.
The Argentine, who made 106 appearances and played in three World Cups for his national side, returned to Spain with Atleti in 2003 before spending a final season at Racing Club ahead of confirming his retirement from the game in 2006.
It was at Estudiantes and River Plate where he forged his reputation as one of the brightest young coaches in the business, ending the former’s 23-year Torneo Apertura championship famine with a title win in 2006 ahead of guiding the latter to Torneo Clausura success two years later.
In 2011, Simeone packed his bags to successfully steer Catania away from Serie A relegation. A subsequent second stint at his first managerial post of Racing was to be short lived, as the call from Atletico Madrid proved just too tempting for the fans’ favourite to resist.
Fast forward two-and-a-half years and Los Rojiblancos have recently notched their 100th victory in all competitions under Simeone's guidance with a 1-0 defeat of Almeria. The fiery Argentine has also overseen triumphs in the UEFA Europa League (2012), Copa del Rey (2013), UEFA Super Cup (2013) and La Liga (2014). Moreover, he was only seconds away from bringing the club their inaugural Champions League trophy back in May 2014.
Ever since his appointment, Simeone has instilled a never-say-die attitude into the Atleti players, lifting them from mid-table mediocrity to title winners in a matter of two seasons thanks to a high intensity pressing game. El Cholo has harnessed a stellar team spirit and helped to get the best out of his squad, making them one of Europe’s most-feared sides in the process.
Jorge Resureccion Merodio, commonly known as Koke, keeps things ticking in the middle of the park.
The 22-year-old joined Atleti at the age of eight and made his way through the youth system before debuting in 2009 during a 5-2 La Liga defeat to Barcelona.
Los Rojiblancos’ midfield maestro creates chances at will thanks to his adept passing abilities, having a hand in 14 goals during last season’s title-winning campaign (providing the second-highest overall number of assists behind Angel Di Maria).
On the international stage, Koke represented the Under-21s at the 2013 UEFA European Championships in Israel as Spain prevailed over Italy 4-2 in the final. The starlet was named in the team of the tournament and subsequently made his debut for the senior team just two months later against Ecuador.
The 5ft 10in midfielder was also part of Spain’s 2014 FIFA World Cup squad in Brazil, featuring in the group stages as a second-half substitute in the 2-0 defeat to Chile and then starting La Roja’s 3-0 victory over Australia.