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Atletico Madrid - Borussia Dortmund (2:0)

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BVB overrun by Simeone’s press

Club Atletico de Madrid v Borussia Dortmund - UEFA Champions League Group A Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Pregame:

The lineups started off with Favre picking what appeared to be a relatively strong side, failing to rest key players such as Akanji, Witsel, Alcacer, and Reus. The lineup was a 4-2-3-1 with Reus underneath Alcacer, and Delaney next to Witsel down the spine.

The idea of lining up with as strong of a lineup as possible took some by surprise, as the idea of rotating for der Klassiker was not an absurd thought, despite Bayern’s struggles this season. The combination of Pulisic and Sancho was long awaited by many, as the combination of the young, creative and highly valued wingers is seen as a potentially deadly combination down each side. Favre selected the backline combination of Toprak and Akanji, giving Toprak his first start of the season.

Simeone lined up with as strong of a side he had, as Koke, Diego Costa, Savic and Godin were all ruled out injured. Atletico’s starting lineup, otherwise, was as strong as possible.

Simeone’s trademark, the 4-4-2 was utilized, with Saul and Correa being used as unconventional wingers.

First Half:

To start the game, Atletico utilized a fast and physical midfield press to somewhat shell shock BVB. Madrid’s midfield was impressive. Thomas Partey’s press was super effective, effectively minimizing Witsel’s presence in the game by stepping forward every time he collected the ball, almost sticking onto him during BVB’s possession. Rodri controlled possession effectively, as Saul tucked inside and Correa attempted to take advantage of Piszczek, in what looked like a lopsided 4-3-3.

Simeone was happy to let BVB handle possession, while sitting back slightly behind the halfway line. Dortmund could barely string several passes together in a row, as Piszczek and Pulisic were on top of each other at times, and Saul quickly pressed Hakimi every time the ball advanced down the left side of BVB’s attack. Quickly, Favre’s entire game plan was determined ineffective, as attacking through the flanks was not working. While Pulisic and Sancho both seemed off the mark countless times, Filipe Luis and Juan Fran were both superb on the night. The defensive double pivot of Witsel and Delaney could hardly advance the ball, and found no outlet with Atletico quickly preventing any play through the middle and forcing the ball wide, areas that they were prepared to press even more than through the middle.

In the 32nd minute, after a poor touch by Hakimi after an Atletico clearance and Akanji header, the ball was quickly progressed to the exposed right side, where Filipe Luis squared the ball and, following a Correa dummy, was struck by Saul into the net. Akanji attempted to save the ball from going in by reacting quickly, but ended up redirecting the ball into the roof of the net.

There were several times following the goal before the end of the half that Atletico could have doubled their lead, but Bürki came up large with several absolutely class saves. BVB also got incredibly lucky with some terrible finishing on Madrid’s behalf. The theme of the half was Dortmund barely even being able to advance the ball past the half field mark without losing the ball due to poor touches, poor passes, or the Atletico press attempting to hunt the ball down.

Club Atletico de Madrid v Borussia Dortmund - UEFA Champions League Group A Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Second Half:

The second half started out with the substitution of Fransisco Rubio for Jose Gimenez, as it looked like Gimenez picked up a concussion late in the first half from one of the few BVB shots.

The second half was better, as BVB was more able to penetrate the Atletico low block. Following the substitution of Guerrero for Pulisic, BVB looked more lively going forwards. The best chance of the game came was Alcacer recovering the ball from an Atletico mistake, and delivering a cannon to Guerrero’s head who, in turn, managed to knock it over the bar.

After Götze came in for Alcacer, BVB looked even more lively, giving Atletico more trouble going forward, as BVB controlled more possession in the match. But Madrid managed to soak up the copious amount of pressure that Dortmund placed on their back line. Jadon Sancho, who was rather ineffective on the night, was substituted for Jacob Bruun Larsen for the last substitution in the night. In the 80th minute, Atletico managed to get a successful counterattack off, as Griezmann finished 1 on 1 against Bürki. The goal came after Dortmund felt like a goal could be poached for the draw, leaving the back line vulnerable against a vintage Simeone counter.

Club Atletico de Madrid v Borussia Dortmund - UEFA Champions League Group A Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

After the second goal, Dortmund looked incredibly frustrated with the result, and started getting chippy. Ironically, Simeone handed Favre the reverse treatment of what happened in Dortmund two weeks prior.

General Thoughts:

- Piszczek looked absolutely suspect defensively

- Pulisic did not move from the touchline, failing to combine with the rest of the front line

- Götze looked good, giving him a fair shout to be BVB’s second forward

- Simeone pressed Witsel out of the game, and Delaney did nothing without his contributions

- Despite the poor result, winning 1 game from 2 against Atletico Madrid is pretty impressive

What are your thoughts on the game?