2. Diego Simeone vs. Thomas Tuchel
There’s no denying the fact that the managers in each dugout are amongst the world’s best. Simeone and Tuchel have incredible track record of success, but perhaps more importantly on an individual scale, they are hailed as tactical geniuses. This two-legged tactical chess match will feature two of Europe’s most disciplined defensive sides. Despite this designation though, Chelsea and Atletico play two very different styles of football.
Simeone’s always been known as a defensive minded manager and rightfully so. When players transfer over to the managerial side of the sport, it’s often said that their attributes travel with them. This thought is personified through Simeone. As a midfielder, his game was centered around positional flexibility, intelligence and strength. His Atletico Madrid teams have possessed all of these traits, which is why they have been amongst the best in Europe during the Argentine’s time in charge.
Simeone’s teams are known for compact defenses who are perfectly comfortable with 20 to 30 percent possession in a given match. Atletico is incredibly difficult to break down and disciplined across the board, with each individual performing his task to near perfection every match. The Argentine usually sets his team up in a 4-4-2, but has turned to the 3-4-3 recently to accommodate for defensive injuries. Expect Atletico to play the latter formation against the Blues, sitting a majority of the team behind the ball to absorb pressure.
On the flip side of things is Tuchel’s attacking, possession heavy Chelsea team. The German puts an emphasis on recovering possession in the opponent’s half, so the Blues press with intensity. Despite dominating possession under Tuchel thus far, Chelsea has struggled to create chances and score goals. This could potentially mean trouble for the Blues, as Atletico will be the most disciplined defensive side they play all season. Tuchel will need to get his wingbacks pushing forward and attackers moving into space if he wants any chance of breaking down Simeone’s disciplined back line.
No matter how it plays out, this is set to be one of the most fascinating tactical contests of the season across European football. We should consider ourselves lucky that we get to see two legs of this managerial match-up.