atletico madrid

Champions League: How Atletico Madrid Can Qualify For Final

Atletico Madrid's Champions League hex against Real Madrid played out once again when the pair squared off in the semi-final last Tuesday night. For the fourth successive season, Diego Simeone's team look likely to miss out on the title no thanks to their rival who were 3-0 winners at the Bernabeu.

History beckons for Real who is poised to become the first team to retain Europe's elite club title should they avoid conceding four goals in the reverse fixture on Wednesday. Los Blancos' exploits, however, comes at the expense of their neighbours, who are enduring yet another frustrating climax to a promising campaign.

Mathematically, Atleti stands very little chance of making the trip to Cardiff but in the game of football, never say ever.

"On Wednesday we have a very difficult game, impossible for many, but not for us, nothing is impossible," Simeone said at the weekend. "They are two different games, we were beaten the other day and the following days have been difficult. Now we need to be ready to play in a huge game."

So what should Simeone and his lads attempt to fix ahead of the second leg clash with their arch-rivals at the Vicente Calderón? Here are four tips.

1 - Cage Ronaldo

It's almost impossible to achieve this at the moment, isn't it? Locking out a player who has scored more CL goals than Atletico in their entire history. However, for Los Rojiblancos to reach the final, they just need to find a way of holding the man, Cristiano Ronaldo. Unmarkable on his day, even more, unpredictable on his off days, this is the genius Ronaldo has evolved into. When you think he's not having the best of games, he shows up to hurt you. He did this by scoring five goals over both legs against Bayern Munich and struck thrice on Tuesday. He was not heavily involved for large periods of the game, with only 50 touches of the ball compared with 123 for midfielder Toni Kroos. And he only had five shots - scoring with all of his efforts on target, his only three touches in the Atletico box. The likes of Diego Godin, Felipe Luis, and Stefan Savić must rise to the occasion on Wednesday.

2 - Attack, attack and more attack

Simeone's absolutely magnificent defensive football philosophy is obviously working wonders in Madrid. The Argentine's tactical prowess has helped surge the club from the peripherals into one of the most feared sides on the continent. This season, they've conceded just 25 goals in the league - the fewest by any Spanish side and only second to Juventus in the Champions League. And yet, they seem to stutter when it matters most against their neighbours as they have often done in their history. Despite their solidified backline, Los Rojiblancos were seemingly dismantled by Real, showing little intent going forward. In a game of such magnitude, Simeone played his best midfielder, Koke, in a narrow conservative wing role to perhaps shore up his defence and protect his fullback better. However, this tactical oversight backfired. Now, Atleti must find a way to penetrate Los Blancos' calamitous defence which sole clean sheet this year incidentally came against them.

3 - Keep the ball

Atletico was simply not good enough in the first leg. They showed too much respect for Real who dominated the entire encounter. In fact, Simeone's team garnered just 38% of the ball on Tuesday and, in the first half, misplaced 21.5% of their passes. No wonder they had only four efforts on goal, with Godin's easily saved header the only one on target. Keeping possession will be key for Atleti as they aim to overturn a three-goal deficit. That can be achieved by neutralising Real's new-found diamond system which offered them more solidity in the centre and vulnerable on the flanks.

4 - Get Griezmann ticking once again

It is no surprise that whenever Antoine Griezmann plays badly, the entire Atleti team ultimately feels the brunt. The Frenchman has been his team's attacking fulcrum since dumping Real Sociedad in 2014. This season alone, the 26-year-old has been involved in 30 goals - seven in the Champions League alone. But his contributions has somewhat depreciated in the last couple of weeks. Against Real, the talismanic forward was simply anonymous and fumbled the few times he was called upon. While Ronaldo was busy striking the goals, Griezmann was left in a no man's land. Indeed, the Frenchman didn’t have a single effort at goal, failed to complete a single dribble and could only conjure up one chance for his team-mates. He was also dispossessed three times and drew just one foul – which is disappointing for a counter-attacking outlet away from home in a Champions League semi-final. But Griezmann himself isn't a stranger to scoring against their neighbours considering he notched the equaliser in the league back in April. And might just be the game changer for the Red-and-Whites.

About the Author Toby

An unrepentant soccer freak other freaks call geek.

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