Atletico Madrid, under Diego Simeone have been one of the world’s best defensive teams in the past decade. Time and time again, Los Rojiblancos have proved to football fans that they can defend even the narrowest of margins against the biggest of teams.
Simeone’s style of defending deep and waiting for an opportunity to counter is often seen as ‘anti-football’. Yet, it is an approach that has worked for Atletico over the years and once again worked at the Etihad Stadium last week.
The Madrid based side played with two defensive lines of five against Manchester City and did not even attempt to get an away goal.
Having conceded just one goal in the first leg, they now head back to the Wanda Metropolitano with a good chance of qualifying for the next round.
Before their game against the Blues, however, Atletico Madrid face Mallorca in the league. With less than three days gap between the next two games, Simeone will be forced to rotate his players. Here is how Los Rojiblancos could lineup against Mallorca.
Jan Oblak has been far from his best this season, conceding 37 goals in just 30 league starts. Even midweek at Etihad, the shot-stopper only made one save and conceded off the other shot on target. The Slovenian international will look for a clean sheet ahead of the crucial second leg.
One would expect Atletico Madrid to use a three-man defensive lineup against Mallorca, the same setup they plan to use later this week in the UCL. The defensive line will consist of three centre-backs and two wingbacks.
The centre-most of the five defenders will likely be Felipe. The Brazilian made a whopping ten clearances against Pep Guardiola’s side and was by far the most active defender on the night. He will look to keep his good form going against Mallorca.
To his left, the 32-year-old will have Reinildo Mandava. The new signing has taken La Liga by storm since his arrival in January. The Mozambique international is now an indispensable part of Simeone’s team and will start as the left centre back.
Gimenez continues to be a doubt for the upcoming game after suffering an injury, and will likely not be risked for a league game. In his absence, the third central defender should be Stefan Savic.
Renan Lodi has found freedom in his new role in the team. With no more defensive responsibilities on his shoulders, the full-back is now one of the team’s most active outlets in the final third.
In his last eight games, Lodi has scored three goals and has provided an assist. He is expected to start as the left wingback.
The wingback position on the right side will be occupied by Yannick Carrasco. The Belgian is suspended for the game against Manchester City after picking up a three-game suspension for his red card against Porto.
The club captain, Koke, will start as one of the central midfielders on the night and will be responsible for the overall orchestration of the game. Moreover, it will be on him to ensure that the team play a more attacking game than they did midweek.
Joining him in the middle of the park should be Geoffrey Kondogbia as the defensive midfielder and Thomas Lemar in central midfield. While the former has a busy evening in the last game, Lemar barely saw much of the ball coming on as the substitute.
Diego Simeone has options aplenty in the final third. Joao Felix was awarded the player of the month for March in La Liga but will not get the nod to start to keep him fresh for the UCL clash.
As such, we expect Matheus Cunha to start alongside Angel Correa in the attack.
The former has scored five goals and provided three assists in 21 games in La Liga this season. He has just the five starts, though.
Correa, meanwhile, has not been able to budge Antoine Griezmann or Joao Felix off the starting lineup but will hope he can add to his 11 goals and five assists tally tomorrow.
Atletico Madrid midfielder on the derby against Real Madrid: “Very difficult to beat them”
Following a 1-1 draw in their Champions League opener against Lazio, Atletico Madrid will shift all their attention to La Liga, as they brace themselves for the derby against Real Madrid this weekend.
Heading into this game, Atleti midfielder Marcos Llorente spoke about Real Madrid’s quality and Atletico Madrid’s chances of squeezing all three points from this iconic derby.
Llorente on Madrid derby
“The sensations are good. The team is very good, the other day we played a great game despite ending up drawing. I really think that the team did a great job that must be maintained for this match,” Llorente said in an interview with Diario AS.
When asked whether or not Real Madrid being tagged as favourites could aid Atleti, the midfielder said, “Honestly, it neither motivates me nor demotivates me. We simply have to do what we work on during the week, what the coach asks of us.”
Llorente stressed the importance of the game, adding, “It is a great rival we have in front of us, they are having a very good start to the season and that motivates me and everyone to try to play a good game.”
“Real Madrid is a great club, they have great players and it is very difficult to beat them. I think we have competed, we have also achieved several draws, but in the end, either you go out one hundred percent and do things very, very well or it is difficult to beat them,” he added.
A former member of the Real Madrid youth academy, Llorente joined Atletico Madrid in 2019. Since then, he has racked up over 150 competitive appearances for Los Colchoneros.
Llorente, though, said he feels no sense of vindication when he performs well against his former team.
“No. In the end, it’s been many years since I left there and I’m at Atlético. Perhaps in the first years, those types of feelings and sensations can arise, but today they no longer do,” he said.
Llorente on Vinicius, Koke & Bellingham
The Atletico Madrid star went on to talk about other aspects of the game, including the fact that his team had one less player every time they faced Real Madrid last season.
“I have zero worries. These are things that are not in our remit, that escape our hands. We play football, the referees referee and those who have to decide decide,” he said.
Llorente, in fact, said that the return of Koke could be a real boost for Atleti. “It is always good that Koke is with us, both on the field and in the day-to-day life of the game,” he said.
“Beyond the grass. The support he gives, the advice he gives us, his experience. it is always important to have him and it is great news that he is already training with us,” he added.
Talking about the absence of Vinicius Junior and the form of Jude Bellingham, Llorente said, “Well, you have to be careful with everyone. All Real Madrid players are very good and can make a difference at any moment of the game. Bellingham is having a great start and we have to take that into account and be very focused.”
Finally, Marcos Llorente put out a message for all the Atletico Madrid fans, claiming their support ahead of this crucial encounter this weekend.
“It will be a full house as always. We don’t have to tell them anything, they know the importance of this match for Atlético, we know that they never fail, they are always supporting us and we count on them,” he said.