Diego Simeone will need to let loose if Atletico are to beat Chelsea

Ditching his back six, unleashing Marcos Llorente higher up the pitch and giving Luis Suarez and Joao Felix licence to wreak havoc… how Diego Simeone will take Atletico Madrid’s handbrake off as they look to mount comeback against Chelsea

  • Diego Simeone will need to ditch his back-six if Atletico are to beat Chelsea
  • The current Spanish league leaders trail 1-0 after being beaten in the first leg
  • Atletico sat back at the Wanda Metropolitano and were restricted going forward
  • Marcos Llorente was deployed as a wing-back, with Kieran Trippier still out
  • Now the Englishman has returned, Llorente can push ahead and wreak havoc 

The big debate ahead of Atletico Madrid’s first leg with Chelsea was: would Diego Simeone play with a back-four or a back-five? And then, once the game kicked off, there it was in all its glory – a back-six!

Not only were Stefan Savic, Felipe and Mario Hermoso stationed as three centre-backs, and Marcos Llorente and Thomas Lemar as wing-backs, but Angel Correa was playing outside and just as deep as Llorente when Atletico didn’t have the ball. The images of the 6-3-1 went viral and Atletico failed to secure the 0-0 Simeone wanted.

At Stamford Bridge on Wednesday he knows it will have to be different. There will be no back-six; Kieran Trippier will be back in the team; and Llorente will be released to run in behind Chelsea and wreak the sort of havoc he managed at Anfield almost exactly a year ago.

Diego Simeone will need to ditch his overly-defensive tactics if Atletico are to beat Chelsea

The 26-year-old former Real Madrid holding midfielder has been transformed under Simeone at Atletico. 

Call the Atleti coach boring and defensive but never forget he saw in Llorente what Zinedine Zidane never spotted. 

The pace and the finishing were wasted in holding midfield. He changed his position and altered the path of Llorente’s career.

From bit-part player shielding the back-four, he has become the team’s second top scorer and top assist provider. He has nine goals and eight assists this season and 14 goals and 13 assists since that night at Anfield a year ago.

He’s also in Luis Enrique’s Spain squad and will be one of the first names on the teamsheet at Euro 2020. 

Chelsea picked up a crucial away goal at the Wanda Metropolitano in the first leg of their tie

Olivier Giroud (left) scored the only goal of the game and has put the pressure on Atletico

To do the maximum damage, he needs to be high enough up the pitch to make the sort of sprints with or without the ball that have destroyed so many teams in LaLiga, and he needs to be closer to the area where he can deliver the sort of shooting from just outside the box that saw him score twice at Anfield. 

It will be easier for him to do that now he’s no longer needed to cover Trippier at right wing back.

The England man has been sorely missed during the 10-week ban for breaking the Football Association’s betting rules. 

Atletico Madrid used as many as four different players to replace him, but now he is back to give them the penetration and quality delivery down the right that they have missed.

Both Trippier’s presence and the unleashing of Llorente benefit Luis Suarez, who was largely anonymous in the first leg. Trippier is the best crosser of the ball in the team. 

Kieran Trippier is back having served his 10-week ban for breaking the FA’s betting rules

Marcos Llorente will be released to run in behind and wreak havoc like he did at Anfield

And Simeone will hope Llorente’s pace puts Chelsea’s defence on the back foot forcing them closer to their own area and getting Suarez closer to goal. 

Running in behind teams was never his trait and at 33 he can no longer be expected to break from the halfway line on to long balls over the top. 

Simeone has tinkered with the team’s style this season and it has been aimed at getting Suarez closer to goal – his tally of 18 in LaLiga demonstrate how well it’s worked.

Alongside him he ought to have Joao Felix. Atletico Madrid’s record signing is sometimes reserved for later in games for when spaces begin to appear but there is no guarantee spaces will appear at any time in the game on Wednesday night. 

Luis Suarez (left) and Joao Felix (right) are the best-equipped to cause Tuchel’s defence issues

The £114million signing from Benfica is – along with Suarez – the best-equipped to get out of the defensive strait jackets.

Simeone will want Llorente stretching Chelsea. He will want Suarez and Felix closer to the area than in the first leg – over the halfway line would be a start – and he will want Trippier playing like a man still angry at having missed the first leg.

Atletico are being caught in LaLiga, but on Wednesday they can temporarily forget about the rear-view mirror. 

They will go from pursued to pursuers, Simeone is ready to take the handbrake off.




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