Having lost the first leg of the Copa del Rey tie by two goals, Real Madrid host Atletico Madrid in a fixture where they will have to be at the peak of their goal-scoring form in order to turn the deficit against an inspired Diego Simeone who will be looking for revenge. Can it be done? Barcelona definitely showed that Atletico Madrid’s defence is not entirely infallible as Lionel Messi and his men put three past a hapless Diego Simeone. So will Carlo Ancelotti manage to outsmart the Argentine in a tactical battle? Let’s take a close look.
The Art Of Physical Intimidation
Atletico Madrid forged their previous successful campaign on the basis of a solid defence. They did not lose a single match in the Champions League until a certain Sergio Ramos leapt to snatch the victory away from them but still managed to win the La Liga, rather dramatically, against an inspired Camp Nou. They have not been so reliable this season but Diego Simeone and his men have mastered the art to soak up the pressure and catch their opposition on the break. Hence do not expect any fireworks from the men in Red and White as they will be extremely organised in the defence and will look to break Real Madrid’s momentum by physically intimidating the likes of Toni Kroos and Isco.
Atletico Madrid have been known for adopting a rather physical approach to games with Diego Simeone casting the club in the image of his own playing days. The likes of Raul Garcia and Gabi make no pretence of fair-play and a close look at Atletico Madrid’s last encounter against Barcelona stands testimony to this observation. In fact Diego Simeone has already laid the groundd rules for the battle after claiming that he was not expecting the game to be ‘calm’ but was rather looking for ‘adrenaline’ and sharp ‘counter-attacks’.
“I do not expect a calm game, which develops over the 90 minute. I can see a game which is very intense from the start, with a lot of adrenaline and counter-attacks. Losing the ball in the centre of the park, for either team, could be very dangerous.”
Carlo Ancelotti will know the importance of winning the midfield battle against Atletico Madrid. Isco and Toni Kroos are expected to start alongside James Rodriguez in the midfield and they will be supported by Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale on the wings. In order to turn the deficit, Real Madrid will have to ensure that Toni Kroos and Isco are able to boss the proceedings and sprinkle passes around the midfield to lure Atletico Madrid out of their own half.
A Classic Attack Versus Defence Battle
Despite all the technical aspects of the Copa del Rey tie, Real Madrid versus Atletico Madrid is going to be a classic Attack versus Defence battle with both teams receiveing clear instructions regarding the game. Diego Simeone has already revealed that he is not going to look for a goal to kill the game but will instead try and defend tightly and hope that Ronaldo and Gareth Bale do not break their organised defensive wall.
“We are not thinking about just scoring one goal, as they could score four. A game last 90 minutes, and we must be very careful, as we are facing a great opponent. We have a favourable score, but we are playing against the World and European champion. We must have balance in our play.”
Real Madrid on the other hand will be looking to score twice and not concede even once. If Atletico Madrid score a single goal, Carlo Ancelotti’s men will have score four goals to turn the fixture in their favour.
In order to score two or more goals, Real Madrid will need as many men forward, as possible. The return of Marcelo and Carvajal will provide Carlo Ancelotti with the width and the attacking force needed to turn the screw on Diego Simeone. Marcelo’s relationship with Ronaldo and Carvajal’s relationship with Gareth Bale is one of the most under-rated aspect of the goal-scoring machine that is Real Madrid. The full-backs adventurous forays into enemy territory will be decisive tomorrow as it could either result in Real Madrid scoring a goal or conceding one as Atletico Madrid look to break on the counter.
The absence of a defensive midfielder coupled with the presence of two highly adventurous full-backs, not to mention the erratic centre-backs, has all the recipes of a disaster. With Toni Kroos, Isco and Rodriguez looking to attack the opposition, coupled with Marcelo and Carvajal on the flanks, Atletico Madrid will have ample opportunities to test Pepe and Sergio Ramos. Expect Atletico Madrid’s forwards to have plenty of options to seal off the game during the ninety minutes.
Set-Pieces: The Boon and Bane of Madrid
Set pieces have been an integral part of both Real and Atletico Madrid in their recent campaigns. A decent header from Atletico Madrid and a howler from Iker Casillas almost earned Diego Simeone a Champions League trophy. One calculated header from Sergio Ramos shattered that dream and gave Real Madrid the La Decima. It was also through a header that Atletico Madrid equalized against Barcelona in its final league outing last season, winning the Spanish La Liga at the heart of Camp Nou.
Atletico Madrid are lethal when it comes to attacking from set-pieces and they showed that once again as they beat Real Madrid 2-0 at the Vicente Calderon. The presence of Keylor Navas in goal, who stands only at 1.84 metres, is going to be a tough test for Carlo Ancelotti as Diego Simeone will look to attack from the set-pieces in order to secure that crucial away goal which could decide the Copa del Rey tie.
However Real Madrid have shown themselves quite capable of scoring from corners and it will not be surprising to see an inspired Sergio Ramos rise high above others to give Santiago Bernabeu its opening goal. Or maybe Gareth Bale will curl in yet another one from outside the box. It could also be that Cristiano Ronaldo will earn a penalty or maybe Pepe and Ramos will simply give away another one. Suffice to say that set-pieces could well decide the game as Carlo Ancleotti’s Real Madrid take on Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid.