It was indeed a surprise in the last leg when the world saw Atletico Madrid defeat their La Liga rivals, and Champions League holders, FC Barcelona. Surprise comes with no disrespect to Atletico, as they completely shut down the terrifying front three of Barcelona with what can only be described as an artful display of defending. They face a similar task in the semi-finals tomorrow evening as Diego Simeone’s team host Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich.
Differences in attack
Although Atletico seemed aware and knowledgeable of Barcelona’s attacking prowess in the previous round, Simeone may be inclined to change the game tactically to accommodate his full backs when dealing with the skilful and dynamic approach of the Munich wide players. While Barcelona tend to build their play from midfield, building up short passes until the play is handed to the brilliance of Leo Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez to attempt to finish things up, it is sometimes perceived that Bayern Munich almost seem to play as three units in what can commonly be described as the unusual 4-2-4 formation.
The power of pace
For years, the Germans have been notorious for their dynamic attacking approach, mainly built by their wide men. With the likes of Douglas Costa, Franck Ribery and Kingsley Coman expected to travel to Madrid, it would not be wrong of Atletico to exaggerate the role of their fullbacks in the attempt to restrict the space of the wide men, cutting off supply to their central marksmen in the form of Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Müller.
This could be achieved with the backing of their own attacking wide men, in which it would be advised that the home side would line up in a flat 4-4-2 structure in order to cover all aspects of threat that the visitors acquire.
Threat of Atletico
However, as we are aware, goals are required to win a game. For Atletico, the form of their beloved Fernando Torres could not have come at a better time. Although suspended in the second leg game against Barcelona, Torres gifted his teammates with the away goal at the Camp Nou that eventually won his team the tie over the two legs.
The Spaniard has claimed five goals in his previous six games for Atletico, and is expected to be partnered at the business end of the pitch by Frenchman Antoine Griezmann who has a season total of 29 goals for the Spanish club in all competitions this season, six of which coming in the Champions League. With the absence of experienced centre back Jerome Boateng, Atletico will be keen to exploit the weakened Bayern Munich centre of defence.
Organisation is key
For Bayern Munich, it would be advised for the German’s to hold a strong line of defence, especially coordinated by communication. As evident in Atletico’s previous game in the competition against Barcelona, when their lines are cleared at the back, it was a recurring factor for the defence and deep midfielders to dispatch the ball up field in the hope that it would find one of their attackers. While the ‘offside trap’ is rarely an effective approach to take, determined by the depth of Atletico’s midfield and defence, this may once more isolate their forwards to Bayern’s advantage.
It will be a game between what could be argued as Europe’s best attack and best defence, which will provide for a fantastic contest between two highly influential managers. With the holders and favourites to retain the trophy knocked out, the competition could be regarded as an open contest as four of Europe’s best teams remain to fight for the highest honour in domestic European football.