Football Features

Simeone’s experience proves vital: Five things learned from Atletico 2-2 Juventus

By Harry Edwards

Published: 22:19, 18 September 2019

Atletico Madrid fought back from two goals down to earn a 2-2 draw with Juventus in a thrilling Champions League group stage match.

Juan Cuadrado gave Juventus the lead a few minutes into the second half and Blaise Matuidi doubled their advantage after 65 minutes. But Stefan Savic pulled one back for Atleti shortly after, before Hector Herrera secured a share of the points as the game went into injury time.

But what did we learn from the game?

1. Juventus suffering from identity crisis

For years Juventus have been known to be a counter-attacking team, with former boss Massimiliano Allegri focusing on defence before looking at the attack. But the Bianconeri are going to have to change their ways this season, with new manager Maurizio Sarri enjoying a completely different style of play.

The former Napoli and Chelsea boss prefers possession-based football, with tight passes opening up gaps for his sides to play into – though it doesn’t always work out. In the first half against Atletico, Juventus faced similar problems to the ones Sarri’s Chelsea had last season, with the Bianconeri struggling to break down a rigid defence.

For a manager with no Plan B, this can cause serious problems, but Juventus’ players appeared to take a leaf out of their former playbook going counter-attacking mode. And it worked.

Just minutes after half-time, Juventus were level, with Juan Cuadrado’s wonderful strike capping off a quick-break from the away side started by a brilliant long pass from Leonardo Bonucci. Their second came in similar circumstances too, with another fast break ending with Blaise Matuidi’s header beating Jan Oblak.

But then Sarri’s Juventus arrived again, and the Bianconeri appeared incompetent in defence, conceding two goals from set pieces to squander their 2-0 advantage.

2. Diego Simeone shows his experience over Sarri

While Sarri will be looking into his defensive weaknesses as the reason for dropping points, Diego Simeone can hail his own managerial nous for Atletico getting the minimum result their deserved.

The home side were on top for most of the match but looked to be on their way to a defeat when Blaise Matuidi doubled Juventus’ lead. Stefan Savic pulled a goal back, but Simeone was clearly still not happy with his side’s chances, and made a double substitution.

Although the departure of Thomas Partey looked forced, due to injury, the decisions to also take off Renan Lodi while bringing on Vitolo and Hector Herrera proved to be a masterclass.

Atletico stepped up their intensity and constantly pushed a Juventus defence which had looked shaky in spells throughout the match, trying to get crosses into the box. Then, in the 90th minute, Kieran Trippier sent a good cross into the both from a corner, with Herrera rising highest to equalise and complete Atletico’s comeback.

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3. The Bury Beckham is back

The summer of 2018 saw England fall in love with Kieran Trippier, with the right-back’s performances at the World Cup earning him the nickname ‘Bury Beckham’.

Trippier’s form suffered at Spurs last season, however, and his place in the starting XI was no longer assured causing him to move to Atletico Madrid this summer. And the 28-year-old hasn’t looked back.

Already starting positively in Spain, earning his spot in the England spot back for the recent international break, Trippier put in another good showing against Juventus in the Champions League, despite the defeat.

Everything good Atletico Madrid did in attack came down Trippier’s flank, with the former Burnley right-back linking up particularly well with Koke. Trippier constantly provided crosses, neat through passes and dangerous set pieces for his team-mates, almost looking like a winger at times.

And he even did his bit defensively, preventing Atletico from going 3-1 down, blocking Matuidi’s shot which had Jan Oblak beaten. This proved even more vital when Trippier’s corner was met by Herrera to earn Atletico a point.

4. The curious case of Higuain continues

The 2018/19 campaign was a bad one for Gonzalo Higuain, with the Argentinian struggling at both AC Milan and Chelsea, scoring just 13 goals in 40 games – not good enough for a starting striker.

Higuain has already opened his account for Juventus this season, scoring in the 4-3 Serie A win over former club Napoli, but against Atletico the 31-year-old had a strange game.

At times he looked bereft of any confidence or ability, barely getting onto the ball and pressing without much luck. But then he went on to show turns of pace, useful to Juventus’ breaks, and it was he who ran down the wing to set up Cuadrado for the opening goal.

Taken off on 80 minutes for the fresher Paulo Dybala, Higuain had two shots with one on target, though then a pass might have been the better option.

Playing alongside Cristiano Ronaldo, Higuain will not need to be Juventus’ main goalscoring outlet, but it would certainly help them if he started scoring more regularly.

5. Lack of goalscorer could cost Atletico in Europe

En route to their round-of-16 exit last season, Atletico Madrid scored just 11 goals in eight Champions League games. Four of those came through the recently-departed Antoine Griezmann, while Wednesday’s starting striker Diego Costa managed just one.

And that could be a problem for Atletico this season. Against Juventus at the Wanda Metropolitano, Atletico were excellent in pushing their opponents, and enjoyed the better chances. But neither Joao Felix nor Costa could punish the visitors and the duo often looked out of sync with each other.

Fortunately for the pair, they were saved by set pieces against Juventus once again – as both of Atletico Madrid’s goals in the 2018/19 last-16 tie came from deadballs – with Stefan Savic and Hector Herrera finding the net this time around.

But Atletico’s forwards need to start scoring if the side are to harbour hopes of reaching the latter stages of the competition.