Atletico manager Simeone talks down his side’s title chances

Diego Simeone thinks his side may have fallen too far behind title rivals Barcelona and Real Madrid.

VI-Images/VI-Images via Getty Images

Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone has already conceded that his side may have fallen too far behind Barcelona and Real Madrid to retain their Primera Division title.

Despite emerging from the shadows of Spain’s big two to claim their first title for 18 years last season, Simeone believes that a summer of aggressive spending by those sides will make it extremely tough to defend their crown.

"I don’t like lying to people, and one thing is clear: we cannot compete with Real and Barcelona. Our rivals are Sevilla, Valencia, Athletic Bilbao, and the target is third place. This is a new team," he told Gazzetta dello Sport.

"Atletico are the champions, but the players are not the same. We are in a different league to Barca and Real."

His comments come after the loss of talismanic top scorer Diego Costa and experienced left back Filipe Luis to Chelsea. Thibaut Courtois has also returned to Stamford Bridge having spent three years on loan at the Vicente Calderon.

Mario Mandzukic, Guilherme Siqueira and Jan Oblak were signed to replace them, while French international Antoine Griezmann arrived for £24 million.

Atletico start their title defense away to Rayo Vallecano on Monday night, just three days after the conclusion of their Supercopa tie with bitter rivals Real, who host newly-promoted Cordoba on the same evening.

EVERLASTING LEGACIES

Carlo Ancelotti is looking to add to an already impressive trophy haul, having picked up the Copa del Rey and the club’s elusive 10th Champions League win during his first season in the Spanish capital.

World Cup winner Toni Kroos and Colombia star James Rodriguez supplement an outrageously talented forward line including Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Angel di Maria and Karim Benzema.

Barcelona responded to a disappointing season, which culminated in Atletico Madrid beating them to top spot at the Nou Camp courtesy of a 1-1 draw, by bringing in former player Luis Enrique to take over from Gerardo Martino as manager.

The Catalan side have been busy strengthening their squad in anticipation of a 14-month transfer ban starting in January, with Luis Suarez becoming their new record signing and the third most expensive footballer in history after clinching a £75m switch from Liverpool.

Barcelona get underway at home to Elche on Sunday, although Suarez of course will have to wait until October 26 to make his bow after biting Giorgio Chiellini in the World Cup and subsequently being banned by FIFA.

Elsewhere on Sunday, Eibar will make their La Liga debut when they take on fellow Basque side Real Sociedad, Levante face Villarreal and Getafe travel to Celta Vigo.

The new season officially opens on Saturday with Champions League contenders Sevilla and Valencia facing off in the day’s stand-out fixture, while Malaga host Athletic Bilbao, Granada meet Deportivo La Coruna and Espanyol travel to Almeria.