Atletico Madrid set for new sta­dium de­but

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - FOOTBALL -

MADRID: Atletico Madrid be­gin a fresh era Satur­day when their new 310 mil­lion euro ($370 mil­lion) home opens with the visit of Malaga to the Wanda Metropoli­tano.

Diego Sime­one’s side have been forced to play their first four games of the sea­son away as the fin­ish­ing touches were made to the 68,000ca­pac­ity venue, nearly 20 kilo­me­ters north­east from their old Vi­cente Calderon sta­dium.

Work will con­tinue out­side the ground for much of the rest of the sea­son, with ac­cess roads still to be com­pleted. This forced Atletico to launch a mar­ket­ing cam­paign this week en­cour­ag­ing as many fans as pos­si­ble to use pub­lic trans­port to ac­cess the re­mote lo­ca­tion close to the city’s air­port.

“The peo­ple at the club are wor­ried that the at­mos­phere is good and that ev­ery­thing goes per­fectly, but per­fec­tion doesn’t ex­ist,” said Sime­one, after show­ing his com­mit­ment to Atletico’s fu­ture by ex­tend­ing his con­tract to 2020.

“It will take months for ev­ery­thing to take shape. When you build a house, there are prob­lems with the bath­room, or the air con­di­tion­ing, or the heat­ing, you need a plumber or you have an ar­gu­ment with the ar­chi­tect. In a sta­dium of this size, of course we’ll have those is­sues, but above all out­side the ground.”

In­side it is a dif­fer­ent story. Last week an im­mac­u­late pitch laid.

The stands hug the touch­line on all four sides of the ground, much to Sime­one’s de­light, de­spite the ini­tial con­struc­tion on the sta­dium be­ing done with an eye to Madrid’s failed bid to host the 2020 Olympics.

“The sta­dium, the stands, the seats, it is all mar­velous,” Sime­one said. “Imag­in­ing the Atletico fans here and know­ing them well, this will be a pres­sure cooker be­cause the fans are glued to the pitch.

“It gen­er­ates hope and en­thu­si­asm and when there is hope and en­thu­si­asm, good things al­ways hap­pen.”

Atletico have held up well un­der the strain of play­ing away as they re­main un­beaten this sea­son and would have com­fort­ably won a 0-0 draw at Roma in their Cham­pi­ons League opener Wed­nes­day but for a se­ries of wasted op­por­tu­ni­ties.

An­toine Griez­mann re­turns from his two-game do­mes­tic suspension, while Atletico couldn’t have hoped for a more amenable guest as Malaga travel to the Span­ish cap­i­tal with­out a point from their open­ing three games and with coach Michel fight­ing for his job.

Like Atletico, Real Madrid have taken just five points from their first three games, but in very dif­fer­ent cir­cum­stances after dis­ap­point­ing home draws against Va­len­cia and Le­vante.

Coach Zine­dine Zi­dane also has a

lack of strik­ers to choose from for the trip to Real So­ciedad – who top the ta­ble along­side Barcelona – Sun­day.

Cris­tiano Ronaldo serves the fi­nal game of his five-match do­mes­tic ban, while Karim Ben­zema is out with a ham­string in­jury.

Zi­dane lamented Real’s fail­ure to re­place the de­parted Al­varo Mo­rata in the trans­fer mar­ket this week, par­tic­u­larly in the ab­sence of Ronaldo, who showed what Real have been miss­ing by scor­ing twice in a 3-0 win over APOEL Ni­cosia Wed­nes­day.

“He is a key player for us, he is al­ways scor­ing goals,” Zi­dane said.

“We’ll be with­out him again on Sun­day and I hope it is for the last game this sea­son.”

Else­where, Barcelona will be ex­pected to keep their fine run of form rolling with a fifth con­sec­u­tive win when they visit newly pro­moted Getafe Satur­day.

Atletico drew 0-0 against Roma in their Cham­pi­ons League opener.

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