Sevilla – Atlético Madrid: Simeone’s Subs Change The Game, But Not Enough For Three Points (1-1)

Having gone a goal down and offering little going forward, Simeone’s double substitution at half-time paid off, but wasn’t enough for Atlético Madrid to get the three points at Sevilla. Both teams had momentum during the game but neither dominated, as VAR, penalties and a goalmouth scramble came into play and defined this cagey, tactical affair. 

Tactical analysis and match report by Joel Parker

Both Sevilla and Atlético Madrid would have hoped to have taken better advantage of Real Madrid and Barcelona stumbling their way through the opening stages of the league. Going into this match, these teams were placed third and fourth, in close proximity of Spain’s two behemoth clubs. 

Julen Lopetegui has established an effective pass-and-pressing unit in a 4-3-3 formation, with a key focus on the 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. in their buildup. The partnership between Jesús Navas and Lucas Ocampos on the right flank is pivotal to their progress forward. Sevilla have impressed, but their finishing has had a negative influence on their points tally. Lopetegui made four changes to the team that drew away to Valencia, most notably replacing Fernando for Nemanja Gudelj in midfield, whilst Luuk de Jong came in for Javier Hernández.

This was Atlético Madrid’s 300th match with Diego Simeone in charge. Despite signs of a new look under Simeone at the start of the campaign, Atlético have reverted to their iconic 4-4-2 system once again. This has solidified their defense, after a few issues at the start of the campaign, however they are still incapable of consistently taking shots at goal – especially in open play. 

Creating chances against Sevilla was going to prove difficult for Atlético Madrid; a team that has recorded great defensive numbers so far this campaign, conceding 0.84 expected goals The amount of goals a team is expected to score based on the quality of the shots they take. per match. Simeone would make four changes to his starting elevan, with Kieran Trippier returning at right back, whilst Koke and Thomas Partey replaced Marcos Llorente and Héctor Herrera in central midfield. Álvaro Morata came in for Diego Costa.

Sevilla’s buildup issues

Sevilla controlled the early spells of possession, which resulted in Lopetegui’s team breaking into their usual 3-5-2 shape when building up. Nemanja Gudelj dropped in between the two center-backs, whilst Óliver Torres moved into the midfield line. With so many numbers in the defensive and middle thirds, Sevilla were able to pass out of trouble whenever Atlético’s forwards pressed, however they were facing major issues when trying to enter the final third. The one-third of the pitch that is closest to the opposition’s goal.

General positioning when Sevilla were building up. 

Once trying to feed the ball to Luuk de Jong and Lucas Ocampos further afield, both men would be swamped by Atlético’s two banks of four. Sevilla’s two routes forward were thus ineffective, both by Atlético’s defense and their unbalanced positioning. Éver Banega was heavily occupied by both Thomas Partey and Saúl Ñíguez in the buildup, as Banega was often forced into aimlessly roaming the middle third to try and find passing options. 

Sevilla’s number one route was always going to be through Navas and Ocampos, however Koke dropping back and supporting Renan Lodi out of possession gave Sevilla no access to the penalty area. 

Franco Vázquez breaks the deadlock

With both teams offering better defensive than attacking moves, chances were limited – however it would be Sevilla to draw first blood. Renan Lodi’s foul just in the final third would be the perfect opportunity for Banega to deliver a set-piece into the penalty area. As the bundle of Sevilla players made their runs forward, closely man-marked by Atlético, Franco Vázquez ran free into the same area. 

His header may have lacked power, but it was enough to beat Jan Oblak and bounce inside the far post. Sevilla had taken the lead and as we know, goals have the power to suddenly change the course of a match, as was the case here, as Sevilla were gifted a short spell of momentum going into half-time. In an attempt to halt this, Diego Simeone instructed Koke and Lemar to switch flanks, trying to exploit the space left by Navas when he moved forward. 

However, Sevilla targeted the right channel, now that Koke had swapped for a more attacking minded player. Their progression into the final third had improved, though Sevilla were still facing the objective of trying to break through the Atlético lines.

Simeone makes an important switch

Trailing at half-time, Simeone needed to get his team back into the match, so he came up with an ambitious double substitution at half-time. Kieran Trippier was replaced by Santiago Arias at right-back, whilst Thomas Lemar came off for Diego Costa. This resulted in Ángel Correa moving from the striker position onto the right wing, with Koke back on the left wing. 

The double change had a great effect on the Atlético players, who looked almost a different team when coming back from the break. They had control of possession now, and formed an effective passing system using the flanks. The positioning of both Koke and Correa was pivotal, as both players would pin the fullbacks in the halfspace and create room down the channel for the fullbacks to enter.

Atlético’s player positions in their buildup, positions of Koke and Correa pin Sevilla’s fullbacks and allow Lodi and Arias to make runs into space.

Simeone’s changes allowed his team to access the final third more effectively and their work down the channels was showcased in their equalizer. Costa held possession and drew several Sevilla players close, before dinking the ball into the path of Correa. The Argentine evaded the pressing Sergio Reguilón with an audacious flick over the left back, and entered the halfspace with Arias to the right in space. Arias then delivered a fabulous cross, for Álvaro Morata to finish from close range. A well-worked team goal from Atlético Madrid, and a level game after an hour of play.

Penalty sparks frantic finish

Morata’s goal was a wake-up call for Sevilla, who had failed to register a shot up to this point in the second half. Luuk de Jong was given the opportunity he had been waiting for, a great corner delivery by Banega, only for a free header from de Jong to go wide. Sevilla had managed to get back into the match, once again opting to go down the right channel, but it was Atlético Madrid with the better chances towards the end of the game.

Then, in the 72nd minute, VAR awarded a penalty for Simeone’s team after Koke went down in the area. Diego Costa stepped up, but his penalty was brilliantly saved by Tomáš Vaclík, who also kept out Koke’s shot in the follow up.

Sevilla continued to keep the ball in the later stages, however Lopetegui would not alter his system, replacing de Jong with Javier Hernández and only making his third substitute when Banega was forced off. The final great opportunity of the match would come for Atlético, the work of Arias on the right flank pivotal to manufactue it. He would cut the ball back into the penalty area, finding Diego Costa in space. His shot was blocked, as well as Morata’s attempt, before a goalmouth scramble concluded in a Sevilla free-kick. As that opportunity was wasted, this tactical battle ended level, as both teams keep paddling in the slipstream of Real Madrid and Barcelona, who both took another misstep this weekend. 


Both Sevilla and Atlético Madrid would be disappointed not to have taken the opportunity to top the LaLiga standings; especially when both had built momentum during the game. Sevilla should have done more with the possession that they had in the first half, even against a defensive block as imperious as Atlético. Julen Lopetegui needs to find ways for Sevilla to break down teams, rather than the partnership down the right, as well as utilize Banega in a more effective role in midfield. The Sevillian deby against Real Betis is up next in LaLiga.

Atlético Madrid will surely be the more bitter out of the two clubs, considering the penalty miss. However, Diego Simeone’s team remain unbeaten since mid-September and had some great attacking moves during this match. The next few weeks are crucial, matches against high-flyers Granada and current leaders Barcelona are in the fixture list, as well as Champions League matches in between. 

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Joel Parker (21) is an Everton fan. Whenever he’s not watching his beloved Everton, Joel spends his time analyzing all sorts of football. Chief editor and Founder of Toffee Analysis. [ View all posts ]


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