‘Barça’s ex Villa key for Super Cup win’: Atletico

Atlético Madrid began life without Radamel Falcao with a 3-1 win away to Sevilla on Sunday, but they face a far more daunting task against Barcelona in the Spanish Super Cup on Wednesday.

'Barça's ex Villa key for Super Cup win': Atletico
Villa, Spain's all-time record goalscorer, joined Atlético from Barça for a paltry initial fee of just €2.1 million. Photo:Javier Soriano/AFP

A double from Brazilian forward Diego Costa overshadowed David Villa's debut for Atleti after Spain's all-time record goalscorer joined from Barça for a paltry initial fee of just €2.1 million ($2.8 million, £1.8 million) last month.

However, Costa believes Villa will prove to be a more than capable deputy for Falcao who scored 70 goals in his two seasons with Los Rojiblancos before a 60 million euro move to Monaco in June.

"You notice the absence of Falcao because he is a great player, but we have Villa who is also a beast and we know that he is going to do just as well," Costa told the club's website.

"His work and commitment for the team is amazing. He is a very humble person and he has a great attitude. I think with the quality he has he will give a lot to Atletico."

Villa will be desperate to impress against his former employers after never truly getting a consistent run in the side after breaking his tibia in the Club World Cup back in December 2011.

A troublesome on field relationship with Lionel Messi and Barca's capture of Neymar in June made Villa's exit from the Camp Nou somewhat inevitable.

But with Champions League football and a regular starting place on offer at Atleti he has the perfect platform to show he should be Vicente Del Bosque's first-choice striking option come the World Cup next year.

Under Diego Simeone's tutelage Atleti have already improved mightily and an unlikely success against the Catalans over two legs would mean a fourth trophy in little over a year.

Simeone ruled out any idea of a title challenge from Atleti in the strongest terms following the Sevilla result, castigating La Liga as a "boring" championship that is only about two clubs.

However, Barca goalkeeper Victor Valdes rejected claims that there is no competition for the big two in Spain and is expecting a tought test from Atleti.

"They showed against Sevilla that they will be a very difficult opponent. It will be another test for this Barca.

"You only have to watch how Betis played against Real Madrid, the Sevilla-Atletico game and Valencia this weekend. It will be a difficult game wherever we play."

After a dream start to his career in charge of the Spanish champions thanks to Sunday's 7-0 trouncing of Levante, Barca boss Gerardo Martino could hand Neymar his first competitive start at the Vicente Calderon.

The Brazilian only made an appearance as a second-half substitute at the weekend.

And while the goalscoring performances of Pedro and Alexis Sanchez may keep him on the bench once more, Spanish international duo Andres Iniesta and Jordi Alba are expected to return after also being rested by Martino following their gruelling trip to Ecuador to represent the world champions last week.

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Thousands of Atletico fans flock to Madrid’s Neptune fountain to cheer league victory

Thousands of Atletico Madrid fans defied the authorities by taking to the streets of the Spanish capital to celebrate on Saturday night after victory over Real Valladolid secured their team an 11th league title.

Thousands of Atletico fans flock to Madrid's Neptune fountain to cheer league victory
Spanish policemen stand guard around Atletico Madrid´s supporters outside the Jose Zorilla stadium in Valladolid. Photo: Cesar Manso/AFP

As soon as the full-time whistle blew in Valladolid to confirm a 2-1 win, Atleti supporters flocked to the Neptune fountain in the centre of Madrid, in
line with tradition but defying Covid-19 rules regarding the wearing of masks and social distancing.

“I was confident Atletico would win. It was like a final and being against Valladolid, I knew we were going to win,” Federico Gonzalez, 46, and among the crowds, told AFP.

A large police presence surrounded the fountain, with several vans also present to prevent people from approaching the fountain, which had been lit up in Atletico’s red and white colours.

Fans waved flags and scarves while others set off flares as darkness fell, the celebrations going on into the night after Atletico’s second La Liga title in seven years.

“It is a joy. From the beginning of the game I was overcome with nerves because Atleti plays each game in its own way and you just never know”, said Carlota Maestro, 20, who came to the city centre with three friends.

Amid shouts of “Atleti, Atleti” and “Campeones”, the rojiblancos fans danced, jumped and hugged each other. Cars and motorbikes drove by honking
their horns, some with red and white flags poking out of the windows.

The Covid-19 pandemic has meant Atletico’s fans have not been allowed to attend matches this season and their celebrations defied the recommendations of the authorities.

Fans ignored rules on social distancing and many were not wearing masks. “Please, I ask the Atletico fans not to go to Neptune,” wrote the mayor of
Madrid, Jose Luis Martinez-Almeida, himself an Atletico supporter, on Twitter. “I am the first to understand the desire to celebrate but this is not the time.”

“It is a strange celebration, because we have not been able to do it like normal, on the field, surrounded by other fans,” said Pablo Diaz, a 22-year-old fan. “We celebrate it but with a little fear, being careful, and wearing a mask.”

Hundreds of other fans had accompanied the team to Valladolid, where they watched the game on their phones in the car park outside the stadium.

After the match, Atletico’s ran out of the stadium to celebrate with the supporters they had not seen all season.