Following their 1-0 win against Bayern Munich at the Vicente Calderon, Atlético Madrid are three points clear at the top of Champions League Group D. The genius that is Diego Simeone has his team performing at a high level which is due in no small part to the style which he has implemented after taking over as manager. He has managed to get every single player performing to the best of his ability.
Early Torres Misses
Fernando Torres had chances early on in the first half to put Atlético in a commanding lead. In the 18th minute, the veteran Spaniard pounced on fellow countryman Javi Martinez’ lack of control and was through on goal. Instead of shooting, he opted for the cut-back onto his left, which the former Athletic Bilbao star read with a questionable hand across the striker’s chest. Torres fell to the ground far too easily for the referee to call a penalty.
Next, a great corner kick routine just three minutes later saw the former Liverpool number fail to convert a cross which, after a flick on from a near post run from Saúl, was begging to go in the back of the net. A brief ensuing scramble for the ball saw Manuel Neuer collect the ball.
These kind of misses were the kind that plagued his time at Chelsea. His two chances were great opportunities to take a commanding lead against such a powerhouse as Bayern, but they were mistakenly wasted away. However, these early chances did show the great passing movements that Atlético deployed expertly to get the front man into such great positions.
A Collective Unit
Much of the game reminded the world of just how good Diego Simeone’s Atlético is. As in so many recent seasons, most notably when they won the league in 2013-14, Los Rojiblancos look like a team in which every player plays together as one unit. As a defensive unit, they were just as stifling with their constant pressing against the German outfit as they were against Barcelona when they snatched the title away from the home side in the Nou Camp.
With a midfield led by captain Gabi and orchestrated by Koke and Yannick Carrasco, they provide ample cover for the defence as well as innovation to lead attacks forward. They impressed especially in this regard against Bayern. Their willingness to track back helped immensely against the inventiveness of Thiago Alcantara, Xabi Alonso, Frank Ribery, and Thomas Muller.
The overall team and the collective work, not just the midfield stars and the brilliance of Antoine Griezmann, is what truly sticks out in Simeone’s system. Everyone in the squad gets instilled with the philosophy of the Argentine to work hard for the good of the team.
The collective unit of the team is so difficult to break down, as their constant pressing and air-tight positioning stifles the opposition often to submission. Even the elite teams end up frustrated as they struggle to break Atleti down.
A force to be reckoned with
Simeone’s side are able to compete with any team in the world at the moment. The recent 1-1 draw with Barcelona saw some of the most beautiful touches and passing movements from the likes of Andrès Iniesta, Luis Suarez, Neymar and Lionel Messi, but the champions could barely break Atlético down.
Yesterday, Atleti had the better chances in the first half, even though the game was quite even. Despite Jan Oblak being forced into making a brilliant save from a Thomas Müller shot in the penalty area, Bayern’s great passing and fancy touches were really of no threat to Oblak’s goal.
The second half was a different story. Atlético dominated the game and looked capable of scoring nearly every time they got the ball. If not for Torres’ misses and Antoine Griezmann’s failed penalty conversion, the score line could have ended up a whole lot worse for Carlo Ancelotti’s men.