Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone says they are much better placed to fight for titles this season than last.
With traditional heavyweights Barcelona and Real Madrid making stuttering starts to the campaign, Atleti have excelled and remain La Liga’s only unbeaten club.
They are second on 23 points after nine games, one behind leaders Real Sociedad but with two games in hand.
“The boys are in good shape and they’re giving us a shot at things we didn’t have a chance at last season,” Simeone told a news conference ahead of the visit of Vallodolid on Saturday.
“They do what is asked of them and they get better with each game that’s played.”
Atletico will welcome back Luis Suarez to the first team after the Uruguay forward returned a negative COVID-19 test. The 33-year-old had scored five goals in six Liga appearances before testing positive on international duty last month.
“Everyone knows what Luis is all about. We need to carry on as we were doing in the last few games and continue making goalscoring opportunities,” said Simeone.
“I said it last week when he wasn’t available – we have players here who can arrive late, are good in the air, can shoot from range… and now we’ll alter things in order to get the best out of what Luis has, too.”
Simeone will be without Suarez’s strike partner Diego Costa, who has deep vein thrombosis, while defender Jose Maria Gimenez is also sidelined after picking up a thigh injury in Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
Winger Yannick Carrasco faces a late fitness test after missing training on Friday due to a knee issue.