Pep Guardiola’s compelling offence and Diego Simeone’s tough defence will be put to the test when Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid meet in the Champions League semifinals on Wednesday.
Atletico would appear to have the edge, because the first leg is in Madrid. At Vicente Calderon Stadium, they have lost only twice in 29 games in European competitions, and only once in the Spanish league this season. Atletico’s fierce defensive scheme has let in only five goals, the least along with Real Madrid. Meanwhile, Bayern arrive with 28 goals from 10 games, the most among all teams this season.
“It’s going to be an evenly balanced match,” Bayern midfielder Xabi Alonso said. “The defence is clearly one of their strengths, but it’s not only that. Atletico know how to play football and are very dangerous in attack. They win possession by aggressive pressing and then play very directly, quickly, and vertically towards goal. We have to be clever.”
Atletico have become a force in Europe since the arrival of Simeone, who introduced a team-first attitude and helped the club become one of the toughest to beat against anybody. Atletico have conceded only 21 goals in 45 games over the Champions League and the Spanish league this season.
“Atletico have developed an idea and they pursue it consistently,” Bayern midfielder Thiago Alcantara said. “We know it’s going to be a very difficult match at the Vicente Calderon. In terms of atmosphere, it’s one of the best arenas in Europe. We have to focus on our play, we mustn’t lose control if we’re to achieve a good result for the return.”
Bayern, in the semifinals for the fifth straight season, have been successful thanks to Guardiola’s trademark offensive prowess. Bayern also lead the Champions League in attempts on goal, with 86, almost nine per game. “You can play football with different styles. Bayern have their own style and we have ours,” Atletico midfielder Augusto Fernandez said. “We play to win every game, and it’s easier if we don’t concede any goals.”
The teams also met in the 1974 final, when Bayern won the first of their five European titles. Atletico, yet to win the competition, are in the semifinals for the third time in three seasons. They lost the 2014 final to Real Madrid.
Simeone will likely be without defender Diego Godin because of a muscle injury, while Guardiola may have Jerome Boateng, who hasn’t played since hurting his groin in January. Atletico are in a close fight for the Spanish league title with Barcelona and Real Madrid, while Bayern are one win away from clinching the Bundesliga for the fourth straight season.