Atletico Madrid 2-2 Juventus: 5 Talking Points and Tactical Analysis | Champions League 2019/20

Juventus had to settle for a draw against Atletico
Juventus had to settle for a draw against Atletico
Shashwat Kumar

Atletico Madrid and Juventus played out an entertaining 2-2 draw at the Wanda Metropolitano on Wednesday in the Champions League.

The game started off sluggishly and both teams began in circumspect fashion. However, the game sparked to life in the second half after Juan Cuadrado opened the scoring for Juventus in the 48th minute courtesy an unstoppable left-footed shot.

The visitors doubled their advantage 17 minutes later when Blaise Matuidi powerfully headed past Jan Oblak.

Yet, the hosts get banging at the Old Lady’s door and eventually, broke it down in the 70th minute through Stefan Savic.

Thereafter, the Los Rojiblancos turned the screw enormously and pushed for the elusive second goal.

Their prayers were answered in the 90th minute when Hector Herrera found himself unmarked in the box from a corner. The Mexican made no mistake and found the far corner, in the process, ensuring the hosts didn’t end the evening empty-handed.

Here is a look at the talking points from the game:

#5 Atletico Madrid and Juventus produce an exceptionally cagey and tactical first half

Both sides were deadlocked at the break
Both sides were deadlocked at the break

Over the years, Atletico Madrid and Juventus haven’t really been renowned for setting the world ablaze with their offensive displays. The pair has often prioritised efficiency over extravagance, meaning that they’ve possessed the tendency to serve up the odd dreary draw.

However, with both sides meeting each other in a group stage fixture, many hoped that they would play without the handbrake on, considering the opportunity to lay down an early marker. And, unfortunately, for the average football fan, the above failed to materialise in the first half.

Yet, to the teams’ credit, the opening 45 minutes wasn’t short of quality, especially on the tactical front.

Atletico fielded a 4-4-2 system with Koke and Thomas Lemar functioning as the wide midfielders. Unsurprisingly, the former cut inside quite frequently, thereby crowding the centre of the park.

As the Spaniard move into central midfield, Kieran Trippier was allowed the freedom of the right flank to venture forward. Though the Englishman failed to deliver a decisive cross, he was a constant avenue the hosts were willing to explore.

On the other flank, Lemar kept drifting across midfield, meaning that Renan Lodi too, forayed into the offensive third.

Initially, Juventus’ lack of width, compounded by the deployment of Matuidi as the left midfielder, was exploited gleefully by the hosts.

However, as the half progressed, the visitors started shunting out their midfielders wide, thereby restricting the Atletico full-backs from getting forward as frequently.

Consequently, the Bianconeri mounted a few attacks of their own with Cristiano Ronaldo and Miralem Pjanic coming close.

Another fascinating aspect of the opening period was that Maurizio Sarri’s men were content to allow the Los Rojiblancos possession centrally, despite Juventus boasting several ball-playing midfielders in their ranks.

Thus, in consonance to several expectations, the two sides engrossed themselves in an intense tactical battle, wherein neither was willing to give the other an inch, let alone a yard.

And, while that degraded the game as a spectacle in the first half, it certainly ensured that innumerable layers of intrigue were added to the contest.

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#4 Juan Cuadrado ignites a fiery second half

Cuadrado's goal ignited a manic second half
Cuadrado's goal ignited a manic second half

If the first half was termed as dour and dull, the second period was anything but that. The two heavyweights, Atletico and Juventus, after indulging in numerous rounds of sparring, turned a technical boxing bout into a street fight. And, none was as pivotal to that transformation than Juan Cuadrado.

The Colombian ripped the game open in the 48th minute when he scored splendidly past Jan Oblak. The move comprised Gonzalo Higuain bursting free of his marker near the half-line before biding his time to feed the onrushing winger.

Cuadrado then, cut inside his marker adroitly before lashing a fierce shot into the top corner.

Thereafter, Atletico went through the gears in search of an equaliser. However, that approach meant that they left the back door open, a route that enabled Juventus to sneak in a second.

After some superb play on the left flank, Alex Sandro was sent into space. The Brazilian curled a pin-point cross into the box which was nodded home by Matuidi.

Yet, the hosts refused to retreat into their shell and threw caution to the wind. Their endeavours were rewarded in the 70th minute when Savic, surprisingly, showcased his predatory instincts to bundle home Jose Gimenez’s knock-down.

The above laid the platform for a manic last quarter of the game as both sides traded meaty punches.

Inevitably, that prompted a lot of off-the-ball drama as several players were booked with Cuadrado immersing himself in a battle with Lodi on the flanks.

Ultimately, Atletico broke down Juventus’ resistance on another occasion as Herrera restored parity, in the process, making an already raucous Wanda Metropolitano atmosphere absolutely electrifying.

The game was definitely a slow burner as the first half involved a lot of pushing and probing.

Yet, when it did spark to life, it provided as enthralling an exhibition of grit, talent and tenacity as any on the opening match-day of the Champions League.

#3 A relatively quiet evening for the Portuguese #7s

Ronaldo endured a frustrating evening
Ronaldo endured a frustrating evening

Before the match started, all eyes were firmly on the two Portuguese wingers set to clash swords. For Atletico, Joao Felix, the club’s record signing, lined up alongside Diego Costa whereas the mercurial Cristiano Ronaldo was expected to be the hosts’ kryptonite, again.

However, the duo, apart from brief moments of brilliance, failed to impose themselves on the game as much as they would’ve wanted.

Felix started off brightly and even drew a smart save from the Juventus keeper, after a scintillating solo run had opened up a shooting opportunity. Unfortunately for him though, there was nothing much to shout about post that.

While he buzzed around in the closing stages, he hardly hit the dizzying heights expected of him.

As for Ronaldo, the forward put in an unselfish display and was instrumental in the first goal. The Portuguese’s run across the penalty area created the requisite space for Higuain to pick out Cuadrado.

Apart from that, the former Real Madrid star cut a frustrated figure, who was wound up by the hosts’ defence a touch.

And, though Ronaldo nearly won the encounter with a speculative effort in the dying moments of the game, he was largely on the periphery, a stark contrast to the last time both sides met in Europe.

However, having said that, there is no denying that both Portuguese players boast enough quality to leave a substantial imprint on this year’s competition. After all, Ronaldo has made a living doing exactly that.

Yet, one just reckons that the Portuguese captain and his protégé might endure better evenings than the one at the Wanda Metropolitano.

#2 Diego Simeone’s substitutions work a charm

Simeone altered the course of the game through his substitutions
Simeone altered the course of the game through his substitutions

Through the course of the opening 45 minutes, Atletico looked the stronger of the outfits and they exerted their dominance on the game. However, after the break, they were caught out by two sucker punches as the visitors raced into a two-goal lead.

Thus, at that juncture, many felt that the Old Lady had dealt Diego Simeone’s men a dose of their own medicine.

Yet, the Argentine dug deep into his tactical hat and pulled out a few shrewd rabbits, thereby enabling his side to mount an improbable comeback.

Angel Correa came on for Lemar, Hector Herrera replaced Thomas Partey and Lodi was withdrawn for Vitolo.

Each of the aforementioned substitutions played their roles to perfection as Atletico roared back into the match.

The introduction of Correa allowed Koke to switch sides, meaning that the latter could influence the game a lot more. Herrera, meanwhile, injected a lot of energy and guile in midfield, thereby allowing the hosts to control the middle third.

Vitolo, on the other hand, was effervescent throughout his stint on the pitch and posed a completely different set of questions to the Juventus defence.

The trio was, invariably, a part of everything good the home side did in the second half.

To cap it all off, Herrera rose high in the Juventus box to nod home a corner on the cusp of full-time, ensuring that Atletico shared the spoils with their Italian rivals.

Over the past few seasons, Simeone has carved a niche for himself as a top-drawer manager. Yet, there have been a few questions raised over his ability to succeed in Europe, a matter compounded by last season’s shattering loss to Juventus.

However, on Wednesday, the Argentine highlighted that he remains one of the premier managers in the world and one capable of altering the outcome of games.

#1 Atletico and Juventus lay down the gauntlet, early

Atletico Madrid could be a very tough proposition in Europe
Atletico Madrid could be a very tough proposition in Europe

In the 2018-19 season, Atletico were dumped out by Juventus in the Round of 16 before the Bianconeri came unstuck in the quarter-finals. Thus, before the current term dawned, several wondered if the duo was genuine contenders for the title.

And, if Wednesday’s encounter is any indicator, they certainly underlined their credentials, emphatically.

Though there remain a few flaws to iron out for both sides, they have a plethora of strengths to offset the weaknesses.

More importantly though, the pair seems to have imbibed in themselves a fighting spirit that could take them deep into the competition.

At the Wanda Metropolitano, there were countless instances when either was under the cosh. Yet, they rode out those storms confidently and then struck when the chances presented itself.

And, that attribute could prove to be defining, especially when push comes to shove in the knock-out phases.

Additionally, Maurizio Sarri and Diego Simeone displayed excellent tactical nous to shift systems through the course of the game and eventually, arrive at a formula that served them best.

Also, the presence of match-winners in both squads makes Atletico and Juventus particularly hard nuts to crack.

Thus, at the moment, with no team really staking its claim to be early front-runners for the Champions League, one just feels that the aforementioned duo might have done so.

And, though a stalemate might not send shockwaves through the footballing world, it certainly is enough to draw the attention of Europe towards them.

Edited by Kingshuk Kusari


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