'Of course' - Villa says Atleti can beat Barca and Madrid to title
With Diego Simeone at the helm, former Atletico Madrid forward David Villa believes the Spanish capital club can repeat the feat of 2014 and upstage Barcelona and Real Madrid to LaLiga glory.
Villa and Atletico did the seemingly impossible two years ago, breaking the stranglehold of Spain's two superpowers to win the league.
Simeone masterminded Atletico's first LaLiga title in 18 years and the capital club have since finish third in the past two seasons.
Atletico fell agonisingly short of domestic glory last term, ending the campaign just three points behind champions Barca, but with Simeone's men further bolstered by the inclusions of Kevin Gameiro, Nicolas Gaitan, Sime Vrsaljko and Diogo Jota, Villa has backed his former team to return to the Spanish summit.
Asked in an interview with Omnisport whether Atletico - under the continued guidance of Simone - can upstage Barca and Madrid this season, New York City captain Villa said: "Of course."
The 2015-16 season was one of near misses for Atletico, both domestically and in Europe.
Having fallen just short in LaLiga, Atletico then suffered another heartbreaking Champions League final defeat to city rivals Madrid.
Following their extra-time defeat to Madrid in the showpiece decider two years earlier, Atletico went down on penalties to the 11-time European champions.
The shoot-out misery condemned Atletico to a third runners-up medal in the Champions League as their wait for a maiden title in Europe's premier competition continued, with Simeone left considering his future at the Vicente Calderon.
With Simeone now committed, the Madrid-based outfit are gearing up for another title challenge on both fronts and Villa - who spent a season working under the Argentine coach - believes Atletico can break through in the Champions League.
"He's one of the best coaches in the world. I was lucky to train with him for a year," added the 34-year-old, Spain's all-time leading goalscorer with 59.
"The guys at Atletico Madrid are so proud to see them make the final again.
"I am sure if they keep working the same they will keep going and can finish the deal."
Atletico open their LaLiga season at home to Deportivo Alaves on August 21.