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Initial Thoughts on Atlético de Madrid Being Champions League Finalist

Simeone's team has been a tough one to play against. In fact, Real Madrid were only able to beat them in the Copa del Rey.

Clive Rose

One loss, one draw and two wins. That's Real Madrid's record against Simeone's Atlético de Madrid. It's not a bad one, but you could argue that they dominated the game during the 2-2 draw at the Calderón until they ran out of fuel. One way or another, it will be very hard for Real Madrid to play this Champions League Final without Xabi Alonso, because Asier Illarramendi will likely be harassed by Gabi, Raúl García, Diego Costa and company.

As always, Atlético's intensity when pressing can't be matched. And furthermore, they simply have nothing to lose. For Real, it will be very important to fight against that intensity and make Atlético's players work without the ball. Real Madrid should be trying to wear Atlético down during the whole first half. Move the ball quickly and don't even worry too much about the score. If you do your work well during the first 45 minutes, you'll have a much easier task during the second half, as Isco and company showed at the Vicente Calderón when they managed to dominate the last 20 minutes of the game. The longer the match, the better for Real Madrid this time.

But perhaps Atlético's main strength lies on the aerial game. With García, Godín and Miranda Real's defenders will have their hands really busy. And they also have one of the world's best free-kick and corner-kick takers in Koke. That's why Real's commitment in defending set pieces needs to be taken so seriously. Ancelotti needs both Cristiano Ronaldo and Bale defending these situations. Illarramendi is too short to take care of Costa, and so are Carvajal, Coentrao, Benzema, Modric or Di María. Considering that Ramos and Pepe will be busy with Godín and Miranda, that leaves either Ronaldo or Bale marking the Brazilian striker. It's not the ideal situation to have a non-specialist man-marking a striker when defending set pieces, but that's Ancelotti's only answer.

Should Real Madrid sit back and wait for counterattacks, Atlético de Madrid would be in trouble. But Simeone and his players aren't fools and they know they need to play that counterattacking style if they want to have a chance. They will not dominate the possession. Will Ancelotti fall in Simeone's trap? If the answer is yes, it will not be an easy game for Real Madrid.

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