Tactical analysis Juventus Atletico Madrid 1-0 Champions League

Juventus – Atlético Madrid: Both Teams Dominate One Half But The Hosts Narrowly Edge It (1-0)

Juventus and Atlético Madrid each clearly dominated one half, but also displayed their repeated issues to convert dominance into chances. Eventually, Juventus edged the game with a Paulo Dybala free kick rocket, securing the group’s top spot and showing a positive response – at least results-wise – to the questions raised after recent struggles.

Tactical analysis and match report by Kareem Bianchi.

Years ago, Juventus against Atlético Madrid would have been labeled as a defensive masterclass, a clash between two insurmountable walls. The defensive aspects of both teams would have been underlined, while most casual fans would dismiss the match due to its tendency for a slow pace. 

However, when Simeone and Allegri met in last year’s Champions League round of sixteen, the game took a turn of events previous games would not have suggested in the slightest. Five goals in two matches and a display of aggressiveness without the ball were reminiscent of Atlético Madrid’s old days, but new to Juventus’ low rhythm football. All of this made for an intense 180 minutes of football. 

Both teams took a further step in the attacking direction in the latest face-off when a 2-2 draw at the Wanda Metropolitano displayed the change in style both teams were undergoing. In a game where long possession spells held no secondary role anymore and both teams showed off clear offensive principles, a breath of fresh air enriched the stadium. 

Forward two months later and Juventus sit in first place, qualified for the knockout stages, while Atléti chase the group leaders three points behind, still in search of a ticket to the next round. 

Juventus lined up in their 4-3-1-2 formation. Danilo replaced Juan Cuadrado at right back, while Mattia De Sciglio started again at left back in place of the injured Alex Sandro. Bentancur retained his spot in midfield, as Blaise Matuidi took over Sami Khedira’s place. In attack, Aaron Ramsey featured behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala.

Atlético Madrid started in their perennial 4-4-2 shape. Mario Hermoso and Felipe replaced the injured central defense duo José María Giménez and Stefan Savić while Héctor Herrera and Thomas Partey covered the backline. Upfront, Alvaro Morata and Vitolo led the line, in the absence of the injured Diego Costa, while João Félix returned from injury to make the bench.

Juve control a reluctant Atléti

Whenever Juventus had the ball, they immediately looked for wide areas to develop their play. Aware of Atlético’s central compactness, Juve knew that playing through the center would have been fruitless. Therefore, unless a clear opportunity arose to access Ramsey between the lines directly from the defense, Juve circulated the ball wide. 

Meanwhile, the central midfielder would have drifted to the wing, ahead of the fullback, attracting the ball-side pivot with him. By employing this strategy, Juve could not only attract Atlético’s defensive structure to one side and free the opposite flank for a switch pass, A pass from one side to the other. but they also opened spaces in the center, since the distances between the two pivots 4-2-3-1 is one of the most frequently occurring formations in football. The two most defensive midfielders are called a ‘double pivot’. were stretched. 

Moreover, Juve could make up for the structural lack of width inherent in a 4-3-1-2 formation. When the central midfielder stayed central, then it would be the striker who would occupy the outer positions. As a result, through their movements towards the wing or halfspace, If you divide the field in five vertical lanes, the halfspaces are the lanes that are not on the wing and not in the center. Because there is no touchline like on the wing, players have the freedom to go everywhere. But this zone often is not as well-defended as the very center. This makes it a very valuable offensive zone to play in and a lot of chances are created by passes or dribbles from the halfspace. Juve were able to create the conditions for quick combinations into the center after having drawn the opposition’s attention wide.

Juve’s attacking structure and movements against Atlético Madrid’s 4-4-2 defensive shape.

Juve’s attacking structure and movements against Atlético Madrid’s 4-4-2 defensive shape.

Atlético Madrid’s medium block A medium block refers to a team that retreats in their own half out of possession, generally only disrupting their opponents some way into their own half. focused on congesting the space rather than disturbing the opponent’s buildup. As such, this facilitated Juve’s ball movement, and they used the space and time to manipulate the opponent. 

In attack Atlético were not nearly as conservative as when out of possession. Generally, Atlético Madrid’s focal point in attack was Morata, who would lay-off vertical passes from deep to start a counter or draw defenders out of position. If the immediate counterattack was not possible, Simeone’s men would look to free the fullbacks wide for crosses. 

If Juve’s fullback shifted in time, then a pivot would make an underlapping run Underlap means that the full-back joins the offensive play by playing on the inside of the winger he supports. This is the reverse of an overlap, where the full-back plays on the outside and the winger moves inside. to attempt to draw the defender with him or provide a passing lane. Unlike against Atalanta though, Juve’s central midfielders promptly shifted to the weak side, preventing the visitors from creating numerical superiority situations out wide. 

Atléti’s first chance, however, came in the twentieth minute when Lodi, free in the halfspace, crossed a ball to Saul, unmarked in the middle of the box. 

Although Juve dominated possession in the first half and combined neatly to enter the final third, The one-third of the pitch that is closest to the opposition’s goal. they were not able to break through past the defenders, which resulted in only three poor quality shots despite the 71 per cent possession share. 

When Atlético probably thought they had secured the draw in the first half, with one minute left before the break, Paulo Dybala converted a spectacular free-kick from a seemingly impossible angle.

Simeone goes all out to tame Juventus

Atlético started the second half with a clear intention to equalize the score. The pressing aggressiveness and consistency were increased, with one striker stepping out directly on the center-back on the ball while the other attacker marked Pjanić and the wingers pressed the fullbacks. Behind them, the two pivots guarded Bentancur and Matuidi. This forced Juve to the wings or long, and, unable to retain possession, the hosts were trapped into their own half by Atléti.

Atlético Madrid’s man-oriented pressing on Juve’s buildup.

Atlético Madrid’s man-oriented pressing on Juve’s buildup.

Simeone further emphasized his intentions when João Félix came on for Vitolo, perhaps hoping for more composure on the ball and between the lines. In the sixtieth minute, Angel Correa also came on, this time for Héctor Herrera. 

As the half progressed, Atlético started gaining more ground, bypassing Juve’s lines with ease and regaining possession. This allowed the visitors to retain 57 per cent of the possession share by the 62nd minute.

Given Juve’s struggles at interrupting their adversaries’ possession, Sarri brought on Federico Bernardeschi for Aaron Ramsey. The Italian has often been praised for his work rate off the ball, which might have been the reason for his introduction to the game. A moment later, Simeone made his third and final substitution, bringing on Thomas Lemar for Renan Lodi. Saul thus retreated into the backline, while Lemar took his position. On the opposite flank stood Correa. 

Now, instead of the pivot, like during the first half, it was the fullback who stepped out on Juve’s shifting central midfielder, facilitating the central control. With the center initially blocked, Juve started finding more space down the line, which could subsequently lead to central access once the center-backs shifted to cover the space behind the fullback.

Bernardeschi facilitated this pattern by not only occupying the space between the lines and instead, drifting wide, providing an option for Juve’s buildup or, otherwise, simply stretching Atléti’s backline. The Italian’s presence vastly contributed to the incisiveness of the sporadic possession spells in the latter part of the second half. His constant movements, something Ramsey was not instructed to do, made Juve more dynamic and enriched their offensive solutions. 

Besides some moments of possession, the hosts still struggled at building up efficiently past Atléti’s pressing. Once the ball reached wide areas Juve was unable to progress the play due to the fullbacks’ isolation. Thus the visitors could persist in their attempts to break down Juventus’ defensive structure by repeatedly switching the play and looking for crosses.


Atlético Madrid’s strategy on the ball consisted in frequent switches to the wide and high fullbacks.

Atlético Madrid’s strategy on the ball consisted in frequent switches to the wide and high fullbacks.

Unfortunately for Simeone’s men, Matthijs de Ligt dealt with them magnificently. As such, despite their dominance, similarly to Juve’s in the first half, Atlético failed to take dangerous shots – although they did reach dangerous positions before being blocked by a majestic De Ligt – until in the 93rd minute, Morata was assisted with an open goal, but tripped on his leg, missing the ball and wasting his side’s last chance of the game.


It is interesting how neither of the two teams could really create great conditions for shots despite their dominance respectively in the first and second half. Juve’s first half control was not backed up by an equally dominant second half, which allowed Atléti to impose their own share of dominance, almost equalizing in injury time. Simeone’s men showed how proactive they can be when all their most creative players are on the field, something that should push the manager into following the path he takes at every start of the season, before changing route.  

Conversely, Maurizio Sarri’s project finally gave some positive responses after questions were raised in previous games. On the other hand, creating quality chances from open play remains a problem, as well as the tendency to drop deep at the first pressing difficulties. With qualification secured, as well as the first spot in the group, the match against Bayer Leverkusen could serve as a good test against an organized pressing system.

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