Monday, May 23, 2022

Atletico Madrid vs. Manchester City takeaways: Simeone’s dark arts backfire as Man City suffer key injuries

Manchester City barely scraped by with a 1-0 victory on aggregate following their 0-0 draw with Atletico Madrid at the Wanda Metropolitano. Diego Simeone’s side came into the match with a plan that they almost executed flawlessly as they frustrated City through the first half before opening things up in the second half. It was quite the difference as the first half saw City take eight shots to Atletico’s one but only producing an xG of 0.61. 

The second half saw Atletico dominate with 13 shots to the tune of an xG of 0.68. City could only muster up two shots for an xG of 0.41. We saw fireworks late in the match with Felipe being sent off for a tackle on Phil Foden, which sparked a skirmish between both sides and eventually a post-match tunnel incident headlined by Stefan Savic and Sime Vrsaljko.

Atletico struggled as they ended the match with only 10 men on the field in a match that saw 10 yellow cards handed out to players and staff. But what did we learn from top-level clash? Here are three takeaways:

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1. Simeone’s style is effective, but dangerous his players

We all know the Atletico Madrid way. They embody the fiery spirit of their manager and will do whatever is needed to wind up the other team and hope that they’re frustrated enough to make a mistake. And for most of the match, it worked. City grew frustrated with the dark arts as the game went on but Atletico took things a step too far. In the 91st minute, Felipe took down Phil Foden to get his second yellow card and an early shower, but not before the benches cleared in a coming together from the players as they pushed and shoved each other.

Jack Grealish and Stefan Savic took center stage during that skirmish, as the two exchanged words which resulted in Savic yanking Grelish’s hair. Savic and Nathan Ake received yellows for their involvement in the incident, but Felipe’s red left Atletico shorthanded when they were chasing the match in the dying moments. It also allowed Riyad Mahrez to waste time on the free kick that ensued. When moments like this are supposed to galvanize the team to push on against the odds, leaving them short a man sets the players up for failure. Make no mistake, Felipe is ultimately to blame for his follow-through on that challenge, but this was the type of chaos that Simeone’s sides have cherished for years. The clash would also rear its head in the tunnel after the match with words being exchanged and at least something being thrown which could lead to a fine from UEFA.

2. City brace for absences when they face Real Madrid 

Speaking of yellow cards, Joao Cancelo’s tackle on Yannick Carrasco was a costly one. While the free kick didn’t lead to an Atleti goal — City can thank their keeper Ederson and defender John Stones for being strong on the line — Cancelo got a yellow that will see him miss the first leg against Real Madrid. City’s talented outside back only created one chance in the game but he is usually one of Pep Guardiola’s most dangerous players when it comes to progressive passing. 

Without him on both ends against Real Madrid, City will be susceptible to Vinicius Junior, who can give defenses trouble even at full strength. While more information isn’t known about Kevin De Bruyne and Kyle Walker’s injuries, this could leave City quite short not only in Champions League but also in their FA Cup clash with Liverpool on Saturday. De Bruyne had ice on his leg when he was taken out for Raheem Sterling in the 65th minute while Walker tried to play hurt but eventually signaled for a sub seven minutes after De Bruyne’s departure.

3. Get ready for a star-studded semifinal tie

City and Real Madrid both had to fight to make to the semis with Los Blancos relinquishing a two-goal lead to Chelsea before mounting a comeback of their own to win in extra time and City holding off Atleti. Pep Guardiola and Carlo Ancelotti will meet on the highest stage of the game with a trip to the Champions League final on the line. City are considered to be one of the best teams in Europe, so it’s only fitting that they have to defeat one of the best teams in Champions League history as they look to win their first title.

Karim Benzema, Tony Kroos, Luka Modric and company stand in City’s way of making the final. For viewing purposes, we wouldn’t have it any other way. April 27 (Paramount+) can’t come soon enough for the next round to begin.

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