How Diego Simeone outwitted Barcelona and Real Madrid to win La Liga

Image Courtesy: UEFA

Mehul Bhattacharya: Diego Simeone led his Atletico Madrid team to their second La Liga crown over the duration of his tenure, in what was a thrilling end to this year’s La Liga saga between Atletico and Real Madrid, with Barcelona playing third wheel. Credit obviously lies in the shrewd signing of Suarez after he was told he was no longer needed by Barcelona, Atletico’s direct title rivals nonetheless; the biggest factor in this success story, however, was the man in black- Diego Simeone. Since taking over at Atletico, his ability to keep his players engaged, his staying power, and his game-by-game mantra have come to separate the Argentinian manager from the majority of his brethren.

He has been resolute in his defence-prioritizing tactics, while making sure his players never grow complacent or lose focus of the match at hand. This, however, does not mean that Simeone is stubborn with his ways. After years of deploying the 4-4-2 formation, he switched to the 3-5-2 for this year, with a solid three-man back-line which allowed the wing-backs to make runs forward. Of course, Real and Barcelona have also used three at the back, however the difference lies in the fact that Atletico, thanks to their brilliant defending, didn’t let as many chances through. The defence, of course, was anchored by brilliant Slovenian stopper Oblak, who helped Atletico to league-low numbers of 25 goals conceded in 38 games.

Taking this league title into consideration, Simeone has now won 8 trophies with Atletico. He has acted as a serious taskmaster throughout the season, but his joy on winning the league for the second time was evident after the final whistle on the day of the last game of the season. Simeone has undoubtedly created an unsurmountable sense of brotherhood and unity within his team camp, with all the players having each other’s back. In terms of players, Suarez turned out to be the missing piece in Atletico’s armour, as the club rode his goals to the league title, with the veteran striker proving that he has a lot more left in the tank after being dumped by Barcelona towards the start of the season, in what is now considered one of the most startling decisions of the season.

In addition to Suarez, a number of other players played an important role, with perhaps the most impactful one being played by the ever-versatile Marcos Llorente, who first rose to prominence after scoring against Liverpool in last year’s Champions League. The Spaniard, who can play at centre-forward, whilst also having the ability to deputise in the midfield and as a full back, chipped in with 12 goals. Together with Angel Correa and Carrasco, he provided some much-needed support to Suarez, and in the end, this was enough to see Atletico through. While their beloved Wanda Metropolitano Stadium was empty, owing to the current pandemic, Simeone was still enough of a guiding force to lead his men to a glorious triumph, in what is yet another illustrious feather on his cap.

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