clash of styles between Simeone and Guardiola

The duel between Manchester City (1st in the Premier League) and Atletico Madrid (3rd in La Liga), in the quarter-finals of the Champions League, promises to be a great duel of tacticians.

Duel of styles between Diego Simeone’s Atletico de Madrid and Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City? « I won’t waste a second on these silly debates“, gets angry the technician of the Citizens. Yet the question arises. And the answer is clearly yes. But knowing which is the most effective remains another debate.

A World of Possession Gap

In the Champions League, with an average of 41.4% possession, Atletico willingly leave the ball to their opponents. And again, this figure is enhanced by the first two group matches where the Colchoneros dominated Porto and Milan, a meeting where they were reduced to ten at the half-hour mark. In the double confrontation against English clubs, Liverpool in the group stage and Manchester United in the round of 16, the average even drops to 34% of possession, even if, here too, Atletico found themselves inferior in the two confrontations with Liverpool.

Do Diego Simeone’s men voluntarily leave the ball to their opponent or do they suffer the game? In their last six league matches, all won against less upscale teams, the average has not changed and remains around 41%. However, with thirteen goals scored and three conceded over this period, Atletico, third in La Liga, remains a formidable team. « They are more offensive than people think. They don’t take risks in the construction, but they have a lot of quality in the last third of the field“, confirms Pep Guardiola.

However, these figures would make the Spanish coach pale, adept at passing and possession. Less dominating in this area in the Champions League than in the Premier League (68.7% against 60.6%), Manchester City should, logically, largely hold the ball in its double confrontation against the club from the Spanish capital.

Verticality on the Madrid side, patience on the English side

This difference in possession is also reflected in the passing game between the two teams. This year, in the Champions League, Atletico Madrid makes, on average, almost half as many assists as City during a match (361 against 617).

To find themselves in front of goal, the men of « El Cholo“Simeone prefer quick attacks after recovering the ball to the licked game of Pep Guardiola. This verticality in the game explains the waste in the pass from the band to Antoine Griezmann (74.6% of successful passes in the Champions League against 89.4% for City).

I will create an incredible tactic for tomorrow: we will play at 12.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola

If speed can sometimes rhyme with haste on the Spanish side, the patience of the English is paying off this season in the most prestigious of competitions. With 23 goals scored, Manchester City is, for the moment, the second best attack in this 2021/2022 edition of C1, behind Bayern Munich, while Atletico de Madrid is in 18th place (9 goals).

However, the Citizens do not neglect the defense with only 10 goals conceded, even if in this area, the Colchoneros, true to their reputation, do better (9 goals conceded). « To be completely honest, it’s unclear whether they’ll press high or wait low. Whatever they do, they will be aggressive, they will leave little space. It won’t be an open match, that’s for sure, that’s not Atlético’s philosophy“, assures Bernardo Silva.

In light of these elements, there should be no surprise on the face of the match with Madrid residents united, exploiting the slightest loss of the opposing ball, and Citizens faithful to their game based on possession. Unless Guardiola reserves a new surprise for his counterpart: “I always think too much about the Champions League. I always imagine new tactics and tomorrow you will see yet another one. (…) Tonight, I will have an inspiration and I will create an incredible tactic for tomorrow: we will play at 12.»

But very clever whoever gives the name of the winner before the end of the double confrontation. « If they win tomorrow, they will have been right and if we win, we will have been right“, concludes the Spanish coach.

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