Atletico de Madrid, 2014-2015: When Cholo resurrects Torres's career

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bosox4283

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Gracias! 
 
Before the match, the thought was that Simeone was going to introduce some changes. To everyone's surprise, he announced a starting XI that featured six theoretical back-ups: Oblak (GK for Moya, whose in excellent form), Gamez (RB for Juanfran, who is one of the league's top RBs), Lucas (LB for Siqueira), Mario Suarez (CB for Tiago, who has been fantastic this season), Saul (LM for Arda, who is the team's creative force), and Torres (CF for Mandzukic, the team's starting striker this year). It might be seven major changes, really, when you count Raul Garcia: he rotates in and out of the starting rotation, but in this match he replaced Koke in the midfield, and Koke is one of the team's pillars. 
 
The thought was that Simeone was throwing the match, giving it away to focus the team's attention on La Liga and Champions. 
 
We were wrong.
 
The team performed exceptionally and played a very solid match. Simeone has constructed the team in a way that may not create that many chances, but rather has built a squad that capitalizes on opportunities (two goals resulting from set pieces) and plays very organized and tough defense.
 
This victory is the third time Atletico has beat Real Madrid this season, which includes victories in La Liga and the Super Cup. Marcelo whined that Atletico only plays the longball and Isco remarked that maybe Real Madrid needs to play tougher. Sour grapes, really. When the going gets tough, Real Madrid does not seem to match the intensity of Atletico, nor Atletico's physicality. 
 

bosox4283

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Football is a weird game, isn't it?
 
Four days after Atletico beats Real Madrid 2-0 while featuring a starting line-up with eight changes, Atletico falls to Barcelona 3-1 while featuring its best starting eleven. 
 
Well, sort of Atletico's best starting eleven. Simeone rewarded Jesus Gamez, a right back, with a place in the starting line-up against Barcelona for his strong performance. This time, though, Simeone moved Gamez to the left side. Whether by design or not, Barcelona challenged Gamez most of the game, and Gamez looked clearly overmatched.
 
Gamez is the fourth LB that Simeone has used this year. It seems that Cholo is not overly pleased with Siqueira's play, and Siquiera was signed to be Filipe Luis's replacement. I've liked what I've seen out of Ansaldi, but he's injured and it may take a while to get back to full playing form. 
 
I think Simeone deserves praise for the way he managed the match against Real Madrid. In this match, though, I thought he deserves some criticism for trying to figure Gamez into his unnatural position.
 
Finally, Gimenez is a 19-year-old Uruguayan CB who has replaced Miranda during his injury and has performed fantastically. The team almost seems to not have missed a beat without Miranda, which is an odd thing to say considering how good Miranda is. I'd say, though, that Gimenez looked his age in this match. While Gimenez held his own against Real Madrid, I'd say that Miranda provides more stability and consistency than Gimenez. 
 

bosox4283

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Bleacher Report writes about Gimenez: 
 
"There must be a very real argument that Jose Maria Gimenez is the finest teenage footballer in the world. After all, how many other 19-year-olds are playing in such an important position, in such a good team, on such a regular basis?
 
Gimenez is still very young, and the mere fact that Simeone would trust him on an occasion like this is to his great credit. But this was a difficult night for him, showing he still has a fair amount to learn against the very best opposition."
 

soxfan121

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I am interested in how Atletico were able to (largely) transition from Costa to Mandzukic (et al) easily, while Luis to ? has been such a problem. 
 
Is it easier to solve a "striker problem" than a left/right back shortage, due to supply-demand? 
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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1-1 at halftime.  This is an awesome match if anybody has the ability and interest to stream it.  Its not at all like past Real-Atleti encounters when Atleti just put them on lock down and didn't actually concede that many chances.  Real have 20 shots in the first half alone and are throwing everything forward but Godin has made like 350 clearances and Atleti have had some good opportunities on the break with Griezmann and Torres looking pretty dangerous.
 

bosox4283

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Greater odds: Real Madrid scoring three second half goals or me having a nervous breakdown as we watch Real Madrid fire 100 balls into the area in the next 45 minutes?
 
I can't believe Torres put the ball in the next. Thankfully, Mandzukic had a fever and couldn't play.
 

bosox4283

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Morgan's Magic Snowplow said:
And now a perfect counter-attack pinged from Messi to Suarez to Neymar and its 1-1. Atletico now need two goals.
 
MMS, does Barca deserves the credit for that goal, or is Atletico at fault? I was surprised that Barca could start the counter so quickly, which makes me believe Atleti was caught out of position or lost the ball in transition. 
 

blueguitar322

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I was a bit late finding a stream and missed the Torres goal, but caught the Neymar goal. What a start to the game.
 

blueguitar322

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bosox4283 said:
MMS, does Barca deserves the credit for that goal, or is Atletico at fault? I was surprised that Barca could start the counter so quickly, which makes me believe Atleti was caught out of position or lost the ball in transition. 
Just two really great passes and top notch finish more than poor defending imho.
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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bosox4283 said:
MMS, does Barca deserves the credit for that goal, or is Atletico at fault? I was surprised that Barca could start the counter so quickly, which makes me believe Atleti was caught out of position or lost the ball in transition.
I would need to see a replay. Barca played two perfect passes but Juanfran might have been at fault in letting Neymar get behind him. Its possible Godin would have done better.
 

blueguitar322

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Penalty
 
Edit: Atletico penalty, looks like contact was outside the box.  Good break for Atletico though.
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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This is fun watching Atletico playing on the front foot and Barcelona playing on the break.

Probably shouldn't have been a penalty but I won't complain because (a) fuck Barcelona and (b) it makes for a more exciting match from here on.
 

blueguitar322

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Wow.  This is some crazy game.  Barca deadly on the counter after a wrongly denied penalty shout.
 

OilCanMDS

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It seems like the game thread is going on here.  Not trying to pile on Atelti by posting here as a Barca fan, but I had to come in to say how great that Neymar goal was.  Ridiculous ball control in front of the goal to take that ball down and then finish it.
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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OilCanMDS said:
It seems like the game thread is going on here.  Not trying to pile on Atelti by posting here as a Barca fan, but I had to come in to say how great that Neymar goal was.  Ridiculous ball control in front of the goal to take that ball down and then finish it.
Yup, another great goal with Messi, Alba, and Neymar all executing to perfection.

This game is a pretty good illustration of why teams don't play a high line against Barcelona.
 

blueguitar322

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bosox4283 said:
I just missed the replay. Was it a handball on Griezzman's shot?
Yes, but no fault of the defender's though, he was only 3 yards away.  I can understand why it wasn't given, as it certainly wasn't intentional, but it did stop a shot that almost certainly would have been on net and extremely difficult to save.  My understanding is that hand ball stopping a shot on net in the penalty box is a penalty regardless of intent.
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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bosox4283 said:
I just missed the replay. Was it a handball on Griezzman's shot?
It was borderline and could be called either way. He had his arm somewhat away from his body and the ball clearly struck the arm. On the other hand, there's no question that the ball played the hand rather than the reverse and his back was largely turned. In these situations, refs seem to give a lot of credence to whether the player's back was turned. This makes no sense to me (you shouldn't be able to put an arm out as a shot blocking appendage, no matter which way you're facing) but that's what often seems to happen.
 

bosox4283

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Morgan's Magic Snowplow said:
Yup, another great goal with Messi, Alba, and Neymar all executing to perfection.

This game is a pretty good illustration of why teams don't play a high line against Barcelona.
 
How funny that just two weeks ago we were all talking about the demise of Barcelona. Messi comes back from Christmas all moody and emotional and weird, then, suddenly, he remembers he's Messi. With Neymar playing great this year, plus Suarez's tenacity, that threesome is exceptional. 
 

bosox4283

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Morgan's Magic Snowplow said:
It was borderline and could be called either way. He had his arm somewhat away from his body and the ball clearly struck the arm. On the other hand, there's no question that the ball played the hand rather than the reverse and his back was largely turned. In these situations, refs seem to give a lot of credence to whether the player's back was turned. This makes no sense to me (you shouldn't be able to put an arm out as a shot blocking appendage, no matter which way you're facing) but that's what often seems to happen.
 
Thanks to you both. Even though Atletico is now very good, I still think you need your breaks against Real Madrid and Barcelona to win. Atletico already got one break with the non-existent penalty, so asking for two breaks would have been generous. 
 

blueguitar322

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bosox4283 said:
 
How funny that just two weeks ago we were all talking about the demise of Barcelona. Messi comes back from Christmas all moody and emotional and weird, then, suddenly, he remembers he's Messi. With Neymar playing great this year, plus Suarez's tenacity, that threesome is exceptional. 
It really would be hard to find three players who would be more threatening as a group and individually than those three.  Goodness.
 

bosox4283

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Thanks for sharing. Good article and great analysis.
 
If Atletico's season ended today, I would consider it a tremendous success strictly due to Atleti's record against Real Madrid this year. Atletico has won the Super Cup against Real Madrid (thereby defying Real Madrid a title), defeated Real Madrid in both league matches, and eliminated Real Madrid from La Copa del Rey (and, again, defying them a title). Before the season began, Real Madrid was talking about winning all six trophies...and then Simeone and crew ensured they wouldn't. These matches only make the season a success. It's really fun to see Atleti take on, without fear, Real Madrid and win.
 

bosox4283

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Frustrating loss to Celta, in Vigo, on Sunday, 2-0, putting the distance between Atletico and Real Madrid back at 7 points. The loss was even more disappointing after Atleti's impressive 4-0 victory against our bitter rivals just a week ago.
 
A couple commentators have taken to use the line: no Arda, no party. With Arda sidelined as a result of receiving his fifth yellow card, and with Koke out with an injury for up to a month, Simeone had to try a new line-up. As Cholo admitted after the match, he made a mistake. The original idea was to play with Torres, Mandzukic, and Griezmann, but everyone's excitement about this very offensive threesome quickly faded when we all remembered that (1) you need midfielders to hold the ball and work it up the pitch and (2) Torres just isn't that good anymore. Cani, on loan from Villarreal, came in for Torres at the break, and Atletico played a much better second half. 
 
Celta deserved to win -- I thought they played a great match. Nonetheless, luck played an interesting role. First, the ref missed a handball on the play that led to Celta's first goal (which was scored via penalty). If the handball is called, no play and no penalty. Second, Atletico hit the post and the ball almost crossed the line. Third, while down 2-0, the ref missed a penalty in Atletico's favor. Oh well.
 
All in all, a bad loss, not just because Real Madrid is now seven points ahead, but because Valencia is only three points behind.
 

bosox4283

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After losing this week to Bayer Leverkuson, Atletico tied Sevilla today, with the game fishing 0-0. 
 
It pains me to say this, but Simeone has to consider changing something in the midfield. Gabi has looked off form the last few days. Would it be possible to replace him with Koke or Saul? Mario Suarez is really hit or miss -- when he's on, he can be fantastic, but it's hard to know which Mario you're going to get. I'd say that Tiago is the team's best DM, though he has not been on top form lately.
 
Whatever Simeone decides, he needs to figure it out ASAP. Atletico has Valencia this coming weekend -- Valencia is one point behind Atletico in 4th place. Then, Atletico needs to overcome the 1-0 loss to Leverkuson to continue in Champions. 
 
The good news is that Torres looked good, and the team can still manage a game despite being outplayed. But the overall trend has been negative -- something needs to change.
 

bosox4283

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A 1-1 tie against Valencia keeps things the way they are, with Atletico still in third place with a one-point advantage over Valencia. 
 
Three observations:
 
1. Moya is not Courtois. Valencia scored on a more-or-less fluke goal: a free kick from close to midfield that hit the crossbar, falling right to a Valencia play to tap in for the equalizer. Nevertheless, Moya misread the ball, and did not do enough to prevent the goal. Courtois, given his size and talent, would have likely found a way to have done the right thing in this situation. 
 
2. Luck matters. While Valencia benefited from this errant free kick and Moya mistake, Valencia also saw Atletico knock one off the crossbar. The bar gives, the bar takes. 
 
3. Atletico is not generating enough scoring chances. I posted it last week and I'll post it again: something has to change on the offensive side of the ball. Sure, it's great that Atleti held Sevilla to zero goals and basically contained Valencia to zero goals. But these matches were winnable -- Atletico had a chance to take 6 points, not 2, and cut the distance to the leader. Instead, Atletico managed a mere one goal in two matches from a set piece. 
 
I might suggest replacing one of Gabi/Tiago/Mario Suarez with Koke. This move would allow Atletico to play Koke, Arda, Griezmann, and Torres/Mandzukic at the same time. Plus, you can then put in Saul, Cani, or Raul Garcia, giving the team another dimension. 
 
Juanfran-Godin-Miranda-Siqueira
Arda-Koke-Tiago-Saul
Griezmann-Mandzukic
 
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