Atletico Madrid 1 Bayern Munich 0: Five things we learned

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ANALYSIS: Pep Guardiola’s struggles in away knock-out games continued as Diego Simeone’s side produced yet another defensive masterclass at the Vicente Calderon.

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Pep Guardiola could not find the answer to beat Atletico Madrid tonight. Getty

1. It was no real surprise, but this game felt like a match between the two best teams in Europe. While Manchester City’s 0-0 draw with Real Madrid on Tuesday night was slow, dull and flat, there was a fizzing intensity to this match throughout, as Atletico pressed Bayern in the first half, before the visitors took the initiative after the break. Of course knock-out football does not always follow the script, but the European champion crowned in one month’s time will surely be one of these two teams.

2. What is so remarkable about Diego Simeone’s work at Atletico Madrid is the turnover of players. Only four of those who started this game – Juanfran, Felipe Luis, Koke and Gabi – started the 2014 Champions League final in Lisbon. But this team side in the same way, with the same intensity and discipline, almost regardless of which players Simeone picks. The newcomers – Antoine Griezmann, Augusto Fernandez, even Stefan Savic – have learnt their roles perfectly, and this year Atletico should do what they could not two years ago.

3. Koke, Javi Martinez and Thiago Alcantara have been hailed as the future of Spain’s midfield for years now, especially given their roles in the 2011 and 2013 European Under-21 Championship wins for their country. And yet it was Saul Niguez, younger than any of them at 21, who shone brightest last night. He scored the brilliant opener, dancing past tackles and beating Manuel Neuer, and was electric throughout. Vicente Del Bosque was watching at the Vicente Calderon, and Saul will surely be part of his plans at Euro 2016 this summer.

4. Pep Guardiola is a brilliant coach but if there is one thing he has not mastered, it is knock-out away games in the Champions League. This was his ninth such game as Bayern coach, and they have only won one, their first, a 2-0 win at Arsenal in the last-16 in 2014. Even at Barcelona, from 12 such games, he only won three, and only one of them, at Real Madrid in 2011, against top-tier opposition. That is just four wins from 21, a record that may hold him back from lifting this trophy for the third time.

5. Almost two years ago Mario Gotze scored the goal that won the World Cup for Germany. He will always be remembered for that moment but his club career has rather stagnated. This was another big Bayern game in which he was left on the bench again, and as Guardiola searched for solutions to unpick Atletico, he never turned to the man signed from Borussia Dortmund in 2013. Life may change under Carlo Ancelotti next season, but Gotze looks like he is stagnating in Munich and departure this summer may be the answer.AA (22) AA (23) AA (24) AA (25) Senator Naisula Lesuuda

___________________________________________________________________________________  Independent

 

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