This post contains affiliate links. “As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.”
Atlético de Madrid faced a challenging midweek match against a prominent Sevilla side on Tuesday night.
Two clinical goals by Ángel Correa and Saúl Niguez were enough to beat Sevilla and put Diego Simeone’s men four points behind Real Madrid at the top of the La Liga table with two games to play.
Not surprisingly, Atlético have the best defensive record of any team in Europe’s five major leagues, with goalkeeper Jan Oblak conceding just six goals in 16 games.
Atlético’s victory over Sevilla was another tactical masterpiece for Simeone, as he recorded his 11th clean sheet of the season.
The entire premise of Atlético’s game comes down to its defensive form and organization. Although their main offensive formation is a 3-5-2, when a player loses the ball, all nearby players first push hard to get it back before everyone falls back into a defensive 5-4-1.
Yannick Carrasco returns to the left-back position, and forward Ángel Correa returns to midfield ahead of Kieran Trippier, sometimes falling further back to provide a six-man defensive barrier. This leaves prolific forward Luis Suárez as the only man upstairs looking for a way out to start a counterattack.
This strategy worked quite well for Atlético in the first half, as most of the successful counterattacks were played through Carrasco and Thomas Lemar connecting on the left and Trippier reinforcing the field on the right.
Both great opportunities in the first half came from these players with Lemar switching the play to Trippier, who set Correa up for the first goal, along with a perfect chip from Trippier to Suarez that forced an incredible save from Sevilla goalkeeper Bono.
Atlético changed their attacking formation depending on the flow of the game between their initial 3-5-2 and 4-3-3 with Correa providing the attacking width on the right side.
While at 4-3-3, Mario Hermoso was able to slide and serve as a left back, giving Carrasco more freedom up front. Atlético sometimes even switched between these two formations with ease on the fly.
The second half was a completely different type of game for Atlético, which relied on their defensive formation for almost the entirety of the second half, putting almost every player behind the ball. While Sevilla had 13 shots throughout the match, Atlético limited Sevilla’s chances as Oblak was barely tested.
While Atlético are used to not having a great deal of possession in some matches, Simeone’s team only managed 33% against Sevilla, creating very limited chances in the second half.
Atlético struggled to come out of their defensive form and maintain control of the ball in transition, often only to clear their hooves forward without holding the ball. Simeone brought in Saúl Niguez and Joao Félix in a double substitution that immediately helped Atlético better retain the ball and ultimately led to their second goal of the game from another Trippier pass.
Throughout the game, Atlético’s transition from attack to defense was flawless. Carrasco and especially Trippier were crucial in their attack down the wings along with the creativity of the offensive midfield of Llorente, who made many deep runs to stretch the game, and Lemar, who was the spark and creator of the central midfield.
However, one thing that Simeone’s team can improve in this game is their transition from defense to attack and getting Suarez more involved in the preparation game. Too often they turned the ball over and were put under pressure again.
On another day when his attackers weren’t so clinical, the score might have stalled. Atlético finally capitalized on their five total shots in the match, placing two in the back of the net, and kept the defensive strength pressed once again to shut out Sevilla and secure the victory.
Atlético will look to extend their lead to the top of the table in their away game against Eibar on January 21, while Sevilla will look to return to winning ways against Alavés on January 19 after their Cup clash. del Rey against Leganés.