Guardiola and Simeone: a stark contrast
Let's open Bayern up four or five times, get a goal and see if they have it in them to put three past us. That was the mantra among the sizeable contingent of travelling Atlético fans in Munich on Monday. The added value of an away goal (let's avoid saying double, though, because then they'd be through with a 4-2 defeat, and that's not the case) dominates clashes like tonight's. Bayern drew a blank at the Calderón, leaving them at the mercy of a sucker-punch from the likes of Torres or Griezmann that would mean they need three. And were that to happen, could Atleti be breached thrice in the same game? Diego Simeone has crafted a unit of such compactness and intensity that it seems almost an impossibility.
That's the problem faced today by Pep Guardiola, who gave a pre-match press conference of no little substance: confident, intense and intelligent in the way he put forward his arguments; though at times also verging on a state of irritation, such as when he protested vehemently in response to questions on his complaints about the pitch in Madrid. And with a dash of melancholy about him for much of his appearance, too; which is natural when you consider he's coming to the end of a three-year cycle in the city and at the club. And that his work there could be left with a sense of incompletion if he doesn't lift the Champions League. Three domestic titles may well be seen as not enough - and he knows it.
The handicap for Guardiola has been that his style goes against the cultural grain at Bayern, as he himself admitted more than once on Monday. He was hired to do something that neither the supporters nor the press - nor, from soon into his tenure, those who hired him - are enamoured of. And to make matters worse, the team had won the treble the season before he arrived. Now he comes up against his polar opposite: the rugged, give-nothing-away game of Atleti chief Simeone. He must avoid conceding, score two and handle the anxiety of a crowd whose true love is a bludgeoning brand of football. At times, he had the look of the fifth penalty-taker in a shoot-out, with everything resting on his spot-kick.
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