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View from the enemy: Diego Costa relief; transfer ban blessings; Oblak even better than Courtois or De Gea

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Chelsea v Club Atletico de Madrid - UEFA Champions League Semi Final Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

Ahead of Chelsea match tonight, I asked a few questions from Jeremy Beren of SB Nation’s Atlético Madrid blog, Into the Calderón. Be sure to check out the reverse version of this over on their site.


WAGNH: Diego is the center of attention, as always. For us, he's been nine months, if not more, of daily shenanigans. What is your perspective on this situation? Are you guys happy with the deal? Excited to have him back? What are your expectations for him once he is able to play in January?

ITC: It's really exciting that he's come back, but Costa's transfer was much more complicated than it ever needed to be — especially as it never seriously looked like Atlético would face competition for his signature. Just following the saga — from the rumored China offer through the text message revelation and beyond — was an adventure in and of itself, so I'm mostly relieved it's over.

From a financial standpoint, the deal and Costa's new contract have pushed Atlético to La Liga's financial limits, but few would argue that Atleti don't need a striker in Costa's mold. I was hoping Atleti would get him for maybe €5-€10m cheaper, but what matters is it's done. He's got a lot to prove to Diego Simeone AND Julen Lopetegui after taking the whole summer off, and there aren't very many players more determined than him (as you know). I expect Costa to hit the ground running in January; he's capable of putting up 10 goals from then until the end of the league season.

WAGNH: Looks like a good start to the season for Atleti. What are your expectations for the season ahead?

ITC: Yeah, it's been a good start. Atlético are second in La Liga despite playing just twice at home through six weeks (more on that below). Right now, it looks like a deeper and better-drilled squad than anticipated, and Atleti may surprise and stay in the league title hunt for the majority of the season at this rate. But the ultimate goal is the Champions League, and the hope is that Costa's arrival — in addition to that of ex-Sevilla winger Vitolo — will finally deliver that elusive trophy. A quarterfinal appearance is the bare minimum after the events of recent years.

WAGNH: Transfer ban: bad thing or blessing in disguise?

ITC: Looks like it's been a blessing, oddly! In recent weeks, Simeone has talked about how the ban forced a rethink of the club's strategy with younger players. He's been forced to rotate more than ever before so far this season; players like Lucas Hernández in defense, Thomas Partey in midfield and Ángel Correa have really impressed. Keeping the core group fresh until 2018 seems to be the plan, and I am all in on it.

WAGNH: What's the latest on future Manchester United player Antoine Griezmann's future?

ITC: Future Manchester United/Real Madrid player Antoine Griezmann is almost certainly leaving next summer — the renewal and huge pay rise (€14m per year) he got this past summer was basically given to him as a "thank you" for not leaving while the club was unable to buy a replacement. Mourinho has wanted him for years, and Griezmann's had the framework of a deal agreed with United for months.

WAGNH: How is the new stadium? Any issues in terms of the facilities, pitch, or the location itself?

ITC: The Wanda Metropolitano is beautiful, and it's not fully finished yet. The pitch is a bit soft still and the stadium doesn't feel like "home" yet, but its unique design helps keeps noise inside the stadium and its exterior will be made up of LED lights that change colors depending on the event (like Allianz Arena). Atlético's relocation from the historic Calderón into Real Madrid territory — the new Metropolitano is in northern Madrid, very close to the airport — has generated lots of controversy, and the roadways and infrastructure need work still. However, the "wow" factor is already there.

WAGNH: Rank these three goalkeepers: De Gea, Courtois, Oblak.

ITC: Oblak, Courtois, De Gea. I won't let my Spain bias get in the way of my love for Thibaut, but I think Oblak's better than both now. He's supremely athletic, his reflexes are out of this world and he's already saved two penalties this season.

WAGNH: How do you expect Atleti to approach this game? What can we expect from Simeone's latest iteration?

ITC: I think this will be fascinating. My guess is Simeone will line up in his impeccably structured 4-4-2/4-3-3 counterattack hybrid and have his players take the game to Chelsea early in search of a goal. He'll then call off the dogs and dare the Blues to crack a defense which since 2013 has conceded only 6 goals at home in the UCL. He'll have variety and versatility on the bench, ready to sew up a result if Atleti go 1-0 up or go on the offensive if Chelsea grab the opener.

WAGNH: Any predictions for the game, scoreline or otherwise?

ITC: It's gonna be tight...I'll go 1-0 to Atlético. Saúl Ñíguez scores the goal, Morata hits the post a couple times.