Atlético Madrid host Bayern Munich in the Champions League semi-final
27 April ~ Even for the coaches involved it has been difficult to avoid talking about Wednesday’s Champions League semi-final first leg as a personal battle between Diego Simeone’s Atlético Madrid and Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich.
Both former midfielders have brought their playing styles into their coaching philosophies – with Simeone’s Atlético a tough, uncompromising side, while Guardiola’s Barcelona and now Bayern teams have been more aesthetically pleasing if less physically and mentally strong.
They clashed ten times as players in La Liga, with Guardiola winning more games, but Simeone’s Atlético coming out on top in their biggest meeting – the 1996 Copa del Rey final. They have since met only once as coaches, a 2-1 Barça win late in the 2012-13 La Liga season when Guardiola was about to leave the Nou Camp and Simeone had just arrived at Atlético.
Since then, the Argentinian has built Atlético into a powerful machine who now regularly compete at the top level, winning Europa League, Copa del Rey and La Liga titles, but falling just short in the 2014 Champions League final against Real Madrid.
After his year’s sabbatical Guardiola took over at Bayern, where he has generally swept all before him in the Bundesliga, but fallen in the Champions League last four first to Real Madrid and then to his former club Barcelona.
The Catalan told the pre-game news conference that he accepted the idea that he will not have been a success in Germany if he leaves for Manchester City this summer without winning the Champions League beforehand. “Three semis in three years is not something that every team does,” Guardiola said. “I have read in Munich that without winning the Champions League, the work would not be complete. I must accept that.”
Simeone has also faced questions as to whether his side’s super-organised style of play is capable of bringing the very biggest club trophy to Atlético for the first time ever. Speaking on Tuesday, he did not play down the idea that the Bayern tie would be a clash of styles. “They have very many attacking options they can use,” he said. “We will try and take the game to a place which suits us more. In battles, the side with most soldiers does not win, but those who uses their soldiers better.” Dermot Corrigan