How Atletico Madrid Stopped Pep Guardiola’s Shot At European Glory With Bayern

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Manchester City’s manager Pep Guardiola will be going up against Atletico Madrid’s Diego Simeone once more in the Champions League for the first since 2016 when both managers faced off against each other in the European quarter-final.

There were many speculations regarding whether Guardiola’s spell at Bayern Munich was a failure or a success. But we all know that those speculations came as a result of the 90 minutes game in May 2016, not the three years he spent while dominating Germany having won three Bundesliga trophies and two DFB-Pokals.

Rather, it was when Diego Simeone led the unyielding Atletico Madrid to eliminate the Bundesliga champions from the Champions League semi-finals to deny them the chance of going into the final, and many fans missed out on placing bets for this match, however, there are fresh odds to bet on this week and the next as they will once again be clashing with each other for the return leg after the Madrid outfit succumbed to a 1-0 defeat at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday night.

Jupp Heynckes, a Bayern Munich legend, led the team to a treble in his final season in charge before Guardiola took over. A successful team with an incredible record in Europe was handed to the Spanish coach, however, he was unable to match the record set by the Bundesliga legend in his three seasons at Allianz Arena.

The Spanish coach admitted and blamed himself for getting his tactics wrong in their 5-0 aggregate defeat at the hands of Real Madrid in the 2014 semi-finals before an impressive Barcelona knock the German giants out of the Champions League a year later.

However, his defeat at the hands of Atletico was strange as his tactics looked to be perfect and yet they were still denied the chance to secure a spot in the final of the European tournament.

In his managerial career, Guardiola is known for making unnecessary tactical switches in big matches. It has become a trait attached to the Spaniard which placed a dent in his chance at European glory with Manchester City.

Back to the previous season in the Champions League final against Chelsea, he started the game without a holding midfielder – a change that seemed odd and off to everyone except the manager himself. The year before that, his team was eliminated by French club Lyon when he switched to a back-three. A shocking defeat that was not supposed to happen.

Back in 2016 when he faced Atletico Madrid with Bayern Munich, he was handed a 1-0 defeat in the first leg, and Bayern was able to dominate and create several opportunities in the second leg, only to be eliminated on the away goals rule following a 2-1 victory.

Bayern had 25 shots with 12 on target that night, almost 70% ball possession and made 668 passes, yet those stats were not enough to get them past the stage.

In the post-match conference, Simeone said: “I was literally in love with this game because my team also played very well. We coped with the pressure and we scored – and that was very difficult. It is unbelievable what we did.

“We try to play with our own characteristics, with the style that we are able and allowed to play and with the players we have.”

Six years later, both managers will be facing each other again for the first time, there have been changes in both managers’ perspectives and philosophies. 

Speaking ahead of his clash against his former La Liga rival when he was asked if this will be a match of styles between his attacking football and Simeone’s, Guardiola said: “I’m not going to talk one second about this stupid debate. Everyone tries to win the game and if they win they are right, if we win we are right.

“After watching Atletico there is a misconception about the way he (Simeone) plays. It’s more offensive than people believe. He doesn’t want to take a risk in the build-up, but after they have quality in the final third.”

It is still highly likely for City to dominate possession in both legs of this knockout stage, but it might still prove to be difficult for this Guardiola side to beat Simeone’s Atletico. Simeone might be looking to stop Guardiola’s advance once more after achieving his aim in 2016 against Bayern Munich.