Girona v Atletico Madrid – Estadi Montilivi at 19:15 Live at Sky Sports

Catalan minnows Girona get their first taste of top-flight football on Saturday night with Atletico Madrid the visitors to the compact Estadi Montilivi.

With Pep Guardiola, his brother Pere and Manchester City part-owning the Blanquivermell, it was perhaps no surprise to see four players arriving from the Premier League giants in the off-season with the club undergoing a major overhaul.

But the bulk of the new signings are defensive players and Girona have seen last season’s top goalscorer Samuele Longo return to parent club Inter Milan. Arguably more concerning for the newcomers though is the cancellation of two pre-season fixtures that could see the Catalans a little undercooked coming into this contest.

That’s not ideal considering the hosts fell away badly towards the business end of last season. Although the Blanquivermell secured second spot and automatic promotion to La Liga, Girona lost seven of their final 11 games having previously enjoyed 14 victories in 18 outings between October and March.

A stable summer at Atleti

A slow start to 2016/17 all but ended Atletico Madrid’s chances of a title challenge and the Mattress Makers were all but out of contention by Christmas, having to settle for a third-place finish in a frustrating campaign.

With the club under a transfer embargo until January, the main aim of Diego Simeone and co was to keep hold of prized asset Antoine Griezmann. Atletico has managed to do just that and there’s a suggestion they could be ready for another tilt at the top-two.

The transfer ban could be seen as a blessing in disguise, giving Simeone the best opportunity to prepare a settled squad. With more stability than usual, there’s no reason for the Mattress Makers not to get off to a positive start and with reasonably attractive odds on offer, I’m keen to keep the visitors onside.

The betting angle

Atletico can be backed with a -1 Asian Handicap at 1.819 on Saturday night, an appetizing angle when you consider the guests have claimed top honors in six of their most recent nine trips to promoted clubs since 2014/15, six of which arrived alongside clean sheets.

Indeed, under Simeone the visitors have returned W9-D4-L2 at newly-promoted clubs – seven triumphs achieved by two or more goals whilst nine shutouts have also been recorded. So it makes sense to support one of the division’s sturdiest and most ruthless operators to open their account with a success here.

Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Atletico Madrid -1 at 1.819

By @MarkOHaire

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