UEFA Champions League action returns with a bang in the midweek, with the quarter-finals of the coveted European competition set to begin on the 5th of April. UCL Quarter-Final draw has set hearts racing among not just fans of the club but football fans around the world. Manchester City takes on Atletico Madrid in what is a clash of titans at the Etihad on Tuesday night.
Both clubs have come close to winning the holy grail before, Atletico twice in 2014 and 2016, losing to neighbours Real Madrid on both occasions in the final, whereas Manchester City came very close last season, losing to Chelsea 1-0 in the final. Both managers are desperate to win the Champions League, with Pep Guardiola having a little more experience than Diego Simeone in this regard, having won twice with his famed Barcelona team in 2009 and 2011. It is set to be a monumental battle, with many predicting this tie to throw up fireworks.
Simeone got past the red side of Manchester in the Round of 16, winning the second leg at Old Trafford 1-0 and 2-1 on aggregate. Now he returns to Manchester again, albeit the blue side, facing a much tougher opponent in Man City. The two teams have had different runs towards this game, with City destroying everything in their path while Atletico made it past with the skin of their teeth, qualifying for the last 16 with a win in the last game against Porto. City proceeded to demolish Sporting Lisbon in Portugal, winning 5-0 and showing their vast superiority while Atletico grinded out yet another result against United.
Man City were last in action in the Premier League winning 2-0 against Burnley to keep hopes of their Premier League title defence alive, with Liverpool breathing down their necks and not allowing them to get complacent. Meanwhile, Atletico Madrid were in action in the La Liga, reminding the world of their attacking skills as well, defeating Alaves 4-1 at home.
CAN MANCHESTER CITY’S ATTACK GET PAST GRITTY ATLETI DEFENCE?
Manchester City and Atletico Madrid are two polar opposite clubs with contrasting style of plays. Man City and Guardiola emphasize more on the beautiful build-ups and the lovely passing side of the game while Atletico and Simeone lean more towards the dogged defensive type of philosophy. Both have proved to be winning styles, with both teams having won trophies. Both are the defending champions of their respective leagues, and neutrals all around are excited at the prospect of a game of chess on the football pitch come Tuesday night.
Diego Simeone has typically set up Atletico in a defensive block formation. His formation has varied between 3-5-2, 5-3-2 and 4-4-2, but he has always favoured starting with two forwards. In the win against Manchester United at Old Trafford, he started with a 3-5-2 and later transitioned to a 5-4-1 block after taking the lead in the game. Atletico allowed Man United to have all the possession and invited them to progress further up the field, but crowded the midfield area and stifled United’s main point of attack in Cristiano Ronaldo. However, for all United’s possession, they failed to create much and did not put Oblak in goal through a lot of trouble.
Manchester City are a team that thrives in possession. They are known to break down low blocks with their silky passing moves and clever runs behind the defence. Guardiola plays a 4-3-3 with which he has had much success at City. Guardiola’s system is not only highly functional but also highly fluid, allowing for much in the way of positional rotation. Man City’s strength lies in their outstanding squad depth and the amount of game-changers Pep can summon from the bench whenever needed. The team has no creative issues, with Kevin de Bruyne, Bernardo Silva, Phil Foden, Riyad Mahrez and plenty of others capable of breaking down low blocks.
While Atletico are widely known for their strict defensive nature, it would be foolish to forget the attacking prowess they possess as well. With the likes of Luis Suarez, Antoine Griezmann and Joao Felix in their attacking ranks, they have the ability to finish off the opposition with any chance provided. Pep will know the threat they possess on the counter, and he will no doubt be working on ways to muffle the trio.
Diego Simeone knows that Manchester City are very different to Manchester United, with the blue half of Manchester more than capable of hurting opponents if afforded the possession. Man City have players that are able to break down opposition defences with a single pass and Atletico players will have to be wary of letting their attention drop even for a single second. They have no known weaknesses which makes them very hard to break down. However, pundits and critics are of the opinion that if anyone can defeat City’s free-flowing and fluid football it would be the tight and rigid structure of Atletico, which many consider being almost ‘anti-football’.
Manchester City will have the upcoming Premier League showdown tie against Liverpool next weekend on their minds as well, with the winner of the tie likely to decide the winners of the league this season. Man City are locked in an almighty battle with their Merseyside foes, and it remains to see if Pep Guardiola prioritizes the league or goes all in to chase the ever-eluding Champions League title. For Diego Simeone and Atletico, they will have no other distractions, with their poor league form ensuring that the La Liga title will not return to the Wanda Metropolitano for a second season running. He will be hoping to take advantage of City’s other commitments and will hope he can gain the upper hand in the first leg.
It will be the fourth time these two managers face each other, with Pep leading the head-to-head with 2 wins to Simeone’s 1. These two coaches have very different philosophies, but both have the same objective of winning every game and trophy possible. A game that is sure to delight fans of the beautiful game all over, it is not one to miss out on.
Manchester City predicted XI: Ederson; Joao Cancelo, Aymeric Laporte, John Stones, Oleksandr Zinchenko; Bernardo Silva, Rodri, Kevin de Bruyne; Riyad Mahrez, Phil Foden, Raheem Sterling.
Atletico Madrid XI: Jan Oblak; Stefan Savic, Jose Maria Gimenez, Reinildo; Marcos Llorente, Rodrigo De Paul, Geoffrey Kondogbia, Koke, Renan Lodi; Antoine Griezmann, Joao Felix.