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The Diego Simeone Masterclass: The King Of Motivation

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Well it was one of the best Semi Final matches of the recent years, as Atletico Madrid came back from 1-0 down to beat Chelsea black and blue at their own backyard. Jose Mourinho accepted defeat at the hands of a “real” football team and respected Atletico Madrid as they showcased a near flawless display to storm into the final, setting up a Madrid Derby.

It was widely expected to be a close competition between both the teams and it looked as if Fernando Torres’ opener had given a real hope for the Blues, but some defensive lapses led to Atletico equalising before half time. At halftime it looked even, Chelsea notably had a bit more possession than their opponents as expected, as it was their home game. But it was rather intriguing if you consider the line-up Jose Mourinho had chosen. He started 6 recognized defenders, with Azpilicueta playing as a Right midfielder, effectively acting as a Right Wing Back and Ashley Cole playing in his original role. Also David Luiz playing in midfield meant that Chelsea had only 3 proper attack minded players on the pitch in Willian, striker Fernando Torres and star Eden Hazard who just recovered from a calf injury.

It was the half time team talk that made all the difference. Chelsea and Atletico, seemingly had to come out of their comfort zone and put the game to rest. Chelsea had more to do as the scoreline favoured Atletico Madrid to move ahead in terms of the away goal rule. Jose Mourinho had to set his team up to attack and score a goal or two and Diego Simeone had to mentor his team to control the game.

Boy didn’t Atletico rip Chelsea apart in the second half! It was a delight watching Atletico bend their ways and play smooth free flowing yet direct minded football. Players seemed to have stepped up several notches and it all seemed that they were the team bound by confidence and morale. Chelsea on the other hand started feeling the nerves. With all the pre-match talk that made pundits favour Atletico rather than Chelsea, it was rather expected that the Blues were the underdogs and Jose Mourinho would make something out of the underdog tag and motivate his team. But it looked otherwise. It was Diego Simeone who had motivated his team beyond bounds.

Simeone had done his homework. He knew Hazard will start, and considering Jose Mourinho’s game, which requires the wide men to be defensively active as well, Hazard was someone who was still a bit rusty after his injury. Starting Adrian Lopez and Arda Turan behind Diego Costa seemed to be a master move. Jose tried to surprise him with the use of all his defensive players but his focus was only on Eden Hazard. It was pretty much a surprise to the pundits when they saw Arda Turan and Adrian Lopez start the game, despite being rusty themselves. But it was a wise move by Simeone. Turan and Lopez both are mobile and more creative players than Diego Ribas, an attacking midfielder who plays deeper and Raul Garcia who is a direct attacking midfield player.

Both the starters positioned themselves as wingers, giving direct combat to Hazard and Willian. Both these players moved sides while attacking ensuring that the Chelsea defenders were always on their toes. Playmaker Koke dictated play, something which Chelsea lacked as Willian is not a natural playmaker and David Luiz, acting as a playmaker, could not lift the game. Hazard’s defensive contribution was below par, one thing which Jose Mourinho didn’t envisage correctly. Atletico are a team well known to attack from the wide areas and Hazard was fully expected to support Cole and Azpilicueta on the flanks, something which he couldn’t do and it affected the whole game. Something which Diego Simeone guessed correctly while organising his team.

2 of the 3 goals resulted because Eden Hazard, much like Mesut Ozil was nowhere to mark Adrian and Turan as they scored into empty goals in a disastrous organisation of the defence. Diego Costa was never the central figure for the attack and nor did Atletico play counter attacking football for which Jose Mourinho had organised a defensively solid, center oriented team. Atletico Madrid came here with a plan, and the plan was to play like the home team, catching Chelsea by surprise.

It was surprise more because last time out, we didn’t see Atleti create chances or involve themselves in sharp passing moves as they rather looked to find target man Raul Garcia or Costa. Today it was different. The first half saw them being solid while the second half saw them dominate. Individually every player seemed to have twice the energy in comparison to Chelsea players, who are known for their energy levels as well.

It was a tactical mind of the Atleti manager, who knew that Jose Mourinho will make surgical substitutions and will assume that the Madrid team will defend deep. It was not to be. Madrid, unlike Paris came out and expressed themselves fully knowing that handing the anchor to the Blues will harm them. They used their passing ability to save themselves some running as Jose Mourinho’s team looked out of balance for the first time this season at home. Mourinho’s despising of a play-maker probably hurt the team the most today.

Never have Chelsea been dominated at home. This was the first instance in many years and it truly will be remembered as a Simeone master class.