Atletico Madrid dealt a difficult hand in Group D vs. Bayern Munich
Atletico Madrid have been drawn against Bayern Munich, PSV Eindhoven and Rostov in the Champions League. Here's a look at their European campaign.
Champions League group draws have been kind to Atletico Madrid in recent seasons but Diego Simeone's side have been dealt a difficult hand this time around. While there are never "easy" draws in Europe's top club competition, there certainly were more favourable ones that came out of the hat in Monaco.
A group comprising a European superpower in the shape of Bayern Munich -- who rightly take the mantle of group favourites -- and two decent sides capable of an upset on their day in PSV and Rostov means that Atleti will have to hit the ground running this campaign if they are to advance to the knockout rounds. A slow start could spell trouble.
Easy: Bayern Munich. A re-run of last season's semifinal is a mouthwatering prospect and the standout clash in Group D. It was Atletico who came out on top on away goals when the sides met in May, thanks in no small to part to one of the greatest ever backs-to-the-wall displays in the second leg in Munich.
Under new boss Carlo Ancelotti the Bundesliga giants will be looking to reclaim their crown at the pinnacle of European football and they'll be keen to extract a modicum of revenge for last year to boot. Atleti can take confidence in the fact that they managed to get past Bayern less than six months ago, however Simeone and his coaching staff will know that second place in Group D is likely to be the realistic target this time around.
Aside from the obvious two difficult ties against Bayern, the eight-hour trip to a freezing Rostov is not ideal by any stretch of the imagination. While footballers travel on chartered jets and are not exactly in cattle class, there always seems to be a hangover when it comes to travelling to far-flung destinations in Eastern Europe and Atleti have form for not faring well there.
In addition to an aggregate defeat by Rubin Kazan in the 2012-13 Europa League, they struggled when they had to make the trek to Astana last year. Add to that the fact that Rostov showed in qualifying against Ajax that they are formidable in front of their own fans and this is a tricky trip indeed. Los Rojiblancos also required a penalty shootout after only mustering two goalless draws against PSV in the round of 16 last year and they will need to be much better than that this time round.
If you leave room for the chance of a couple of negative results against Bayern Munich, there can be no slip-ups against the other two sides if Atletico want to advance. Ten, preferably 12, points from those four fixtures is a must.
While Rostov away in mid-October will not be nice, the visit to PSV on matchday one is likely to prove more pivotal for Atletico in the grand scheme of things.
As previously mentioned, a slow start could spell trouble and there will be no home comforts to get things going for Los Colchoneros who travel to Eindhoven first up. The Dutch outfit, on paper at least, pose the most danger to Atleti's hopes of securing a top-two finish and a win at the Philips Stadion will go a long way to sealing that.
Simeone will need his side to perform significantly better than they did in their last goalless, dour visit to Holland to gain a result there. Three points at PSV's place and the rest should -- in theory -- fall into place nicely after that.
After splashing out over €80 million this summer, Atleti will have their eyes on repeating, or rather bettering, last season's final appearance in the competition. While this is a difficult task, there are few teams or coaches more well-versed in the ways of knockout football. A semifinal appearance should be the minimum this season.
Joseph Walker covers Atletico Madrid for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @Joe_in_espana.