Substance vs. Style: Atletico Madrid’s Champions League Campaign Divides Opinion

Atletico Madrid beat Liverpool 3-2 after extra time at Anfield to seal their passage into the Champions League quarter-finals on Wednesday 3rd March 2020.

The Spanish outfit clawed back after going two goals down, to secure a 4-2 aggregate victory over the Champions League holders. Marcos Llorente bagged a brace before Alvaro Morata scored a third to send Spanish supporters – and Diego Simeone himself – in frantic celebrations.

marcos llorente celebrates goal at anfield

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Limbs were flying just moments earlier, however, when Atletico Madrid had a goal denied for offside in the dying moments of regular time. The Spaniards rose back to their feet to end Liverpool’s title defence spectacularly during extra time and contrary to all betting predictions.

And despite the remarkable result at one of Europe’s toughest grounds, Atletico Madrid’s success has come under great scrutiny due to a heavily criticised style of play. In a personification of life, style met substance at Anfield to once again prove that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Substance Over Style 

Just as two approaches in life that both oppose and complement each other, style and substance collided at Anfield. Jurgen Klopp’s hugely admired side once again put on a display with their aggressive, high-pressing game.

The Reds attacked and dominated the proceedings, whereas Diego Simeone once again relied on his recognisable defence-oriented style of play. In a clear statement of will and intent, Simeone reduced his team’s approach to substance over style and used impressive counter abilities to eliminate the English side.

The Atleti have registered only 37% possession compared to Liverpool’s 63%. Moreover, the visitors were faced with 35 goal attempts from the Reds, 12 of which were on target. On the other side, Atletico Madrid only made 6 shots on goal which makes for a 50% conversion rate.

Having failed to make a single shot on goal in the first leg in Madrid, Liverpool went all in at Anfield, putting Jan Oblak to work. The Slovenian shot-stopper made 10 saves and was hailed a hero by his manager. On the other end, Liverpool goalkeeper Adrian’s mistakes proved costly for the reigning champions.

Nevertheless, it was Atletico Madrid’s approach towards the entire tie that got under the spotlight in the aftermath of this highly-entertaining matchup. Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp took a swipe of Atletico’s defensive style, claiming he did not get the way they play.

“They could play proper football but they stand deep and have counter-attacks”, Klopp said.

Diego Simeone defended his tactics after another famous European night for his team claiming Atletico Madrid “play to win”. The charismatic manager led Atletico Madrid twice to the Champions League final in his eight years in charge and is one step closer to the ninth.

Can Atleti Go All the Way? 

With the success at Anfield, the Spanish side has now been given 12/1 betting odds by William Hill which makes them the fourth favourite to lift the European trophy.

Diego Simeone’s side will be the team to beat as they gain massive confidence after an important victory over the champions. The man who’s led Atletico Madrid to seven trophies in nine years in charge has embedded a winning mentality into the team which currently stands as an epitome of Simeone’s playing days.

He’s put a drilling system in place which cultivates only the most resilient of men and turns them into Atletico Madrid stars. A ruthless approach which puts your physical limits at test has become the part of the club’s identity.

Having been forced to challenge more financially powerful sides for the La Liga dominance for years now, Diego Simeone is reluctant to discard his pragmatic approach for a proactive and more appealing style.

In the end, such a stance has brought him impressive results thus far so why should he?

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