2021 is the year of change. In Spain at least, where, failing to have exciting matches, we have a breathtaking final sprint and locomotive coaches who have tried new things. This is the case of the two teams who will face each other this Saturday in what can be the title match. True religion in Barcelona, the 4-3-3 was thus shelved by Ronald Koeman during the season. On the side of Atlético de Madrid, Diego Simeone never traded his 4-4-2 … until the start of the current season, also betting on a 3-5-2. A system now fashionable in Spain, at a time when most coaches seek to limit the spaces left to the opponent and play in rapid transition forward.
Curiously, the motivations of the two coaches were very different. Clearly, the Dutchman chose this system to solidify a defense that too often took water in the first weeks of competition. Diego Simeone had bet on this tactical configuration to breathe new life into his offensive animation which was sometimes too dull in previous years, which worked particularly well in the first part of the season. Two bets on the whole successful, but again, in very different circumstances. Although on paper the two teams have a similar disposition, the ground truth is totally different. Starting with the defensive sector, where Koeman had to tinker around on numerous occasions. Faced with the poor form of Clément Lenglet, the repetitive health problems of Samuel Umtiti and the long injury of Gerard Piqué, the former coach oranje had to bet on the young Ronald Araujo and Oscar Mingueza, who responded present and regularly deliver great services. The two players from Barça B exploded, allowing this system to prove to be a winner, just as this passage to 3-5-2 also helped them to reveal itself.
The same system … but more differences than similarities
Frenkie de Jong also played as a libero, aiming to get the ball out cleanly and quickly. This is where the first big difference with Atlético lies: the Barcelona recovery is intended to be rather axial, with Jordi Alba and Sergino Dest coming into contact with the leather at a fairly high position. We first try to reach Busquets, Pedri or the former Ajax. Quite the opposite with the Colchoneros, where the first raiser is also very often Mario Hermoso, located as a left central defender, who instead tries to find a partner on the wings, often Yannick Carrasco, the left piston of the Rojiblancos, or Kieran Trippier, his counterpart on the right. Common point, however: the four players cited as excellent in this configuration, having exploded and / or improved their level of performance compared to the previous season.
In the middle, it’s also quite different. On the Atlético side, we often find two players in a fixed position, where Barcelona have much more freedom, whether in terms of movement on the field than on the creative level. The reason ? The presence of Busquets on the Catalan side, which allows the other two midfielders to flourish, while the Madrilenians play them without a defensive midfielder, a player like Koke being therefore a little constrained and Thomas Lemar is often the only player not to have a restrictions. Among the Catalans, we look above all for the combination in small spaces, carrying the ball forward with a certain touch of verticality all the same, where the Colchoneros want to strike, with this lethal duo Trippier-Llorente on the side. law. We always find this desire to hurt the flanks among the men of Cholo, where the Barcelona people rather use the sides as points of support or useful elements to expand the game. everything, in both, to see the pistons completing the actions in the box.
More flexibility and freedom on the Catalan side
In front, the presence of Messi conditions everything. Barça also often plays, curiously, with only two players with a purely offensive vocation: the Argentine and a second striker, Griezmann or Dembélé, to choose from. No real number 9, but above all, no fixing point in front, which logically has its advantages and disadvantages. Where we find similarities in the offensive animation is that both teams seek to find depth rather quickly. This is especially the case when Koeman relies on Ousmane Dembélé as an offensive reference, relying on the midfielder’s engine room and Messi to send a final lethal ball. Side Colchonero, same story, but it is not necessarily Suarez who is sought in priority in this case, but rather Marcos Llorente, Yannick Carrasco or Angel Correa when he is on the lawn.
Luis Suarez is the point of fixation in front, and that’s where the other big difference from what is happening at his former club. Intervening very little in the game, the task of the Uruguayan is clear: take advantage of the slightest ball trailing in the area or around it to send it to the bottom. Concretely, the development of the colchonero game is done with nine field players, against ten for the Catalans, or even eleven in view of the excellent kicking game of Marc-André ter Stegen. Here too, there are advantages and disadvantages: the Barcelona game is less predictable, but faced with a well-grouped defense, the absence of a fox is felt. For the Madrilenians, the offensive game is therefore less fluid, but the presence of a leading attacker in front, and not least, can make it possible to unlock situations more easily. In addition to freeing up spaces and defenders for its partners. You will understand, these two 3-5-2 therefore do not have much to do. It remains to be seen whether the 3-5-2 in Koeman sauce will be able to reverse the 3-5-2 signed Simeone, and vice versa …