The penultimate matchweek in La Liga saw Atlético Madrid host Sevilla at the Wanda Metropolitano. Prior to the match, Atlético Madrid had all but guaranteed a second place finish in the table, which was confirmed when Real Madrid suffered a loss to Real Sociedad later in the day. Sevilla needed to get something from the match if they had any chance of Champions League football next season. It’s fair to say that this match was much more critical for Sevilla. This tactical analysis will look at how each team approached the match.
The home team lined up with their preferred 4-2-2 formation. Paco Montero was given the start at centreback because of injuries to Stefan Savić, Lucas Hernandez, and José Giménez. The youngster partnered with Diego Godín, who was playing his last game at the Wanda Metropolitano as an Atlético Madrid player. The rest of the lineup picked itself, with Diego Simeone going for his strongest XI. This included the midfield four of Koke, Rodri Hernández, Thomas Partey, and Saúl. Álvaro Morata started alongside Antoine Griezmann, replacing the suspended Diego Costa.
Unlike Simeone, Joaquín Caparrós is quite flexible in his formations. He opted for a 4-2-3-1, a shape he has only used four other times this season. Using a back four of Jesús Navas, Simon Kjær, Sergi Gómez, and Joris Gnagnon was Caparrós’ way of attempting to nullify Atlético Madrid’s strong attacking players. Éver Banega’s suspension made way for Maxime Gonalons to start in midfield alongside Roque Mesa. A front four of Munir El Haddadi, Pablo Sarabia, Franco Vázquez, and Wissam Ben Yedder led the attack.
Atlético Madrid’s midfield dominance
As mentioned above, Caparrós deliberately set his team up with two midfielders in front of a back four to try and protect their goal. However, Atlético Madrid’s midfielders were able to work around the defensive set up.
Koke’s through balls
Koke’s through balls to the forward players were an aspect that Sevilla struggled with while defending. In a compact defence, a through ball takes several opposition players out of the game. Koke attempted four through balls throughout the match, and two ended with a shot on goal.
In the second half, Sevilla became more aggressive and were able to get a man to intercept the through balls. Koke attempted two through balls in the second half, and both were intercepted, deeming them unsuccessful.
Thomas Partey’s dominance
Koke was not the only midfielder from Atlético Madrid that was able to constantly frustrate Sevilla. Partey was arguably the man of the match for his performance. At his best, the Ghanian is a huge threat both in defence and in attack. He seemed energized and well-rested, as he was constantly running and pressing for the team.
Defensively, Partey was able to prevent most of Sevilla’s attacks. He blocked six crucial shots, three of which were on target. He also successfully completed four interceptions. His interceptions are completed high up the pitch in order to prevent Sevilla’s build-up play completely.
Offensively, Partey was outstanding. 100% long pass accuracy, with a 91% accuracy of forward passes and an 85% accurate passes into the final third allowed him to create the most chances for his team going forward.
Sevilla’s lack of urgency
It is easier said than done, but Sevilla’s biggest mistake was showing Atlético Madrid too much respect. They were aware that they needed the three points regardless of other results around them in the table, but it did not seem that way.
Sevilla had more possession than Atlético Madrid. This comes off as surprising as Atlético Madrid usually dominate possession at home. However, the hosts were unable to do much with the possession. Their average xG for the season has been 1.82, but this match saw them muster a mere 0.83 xG. They also had 11 shots on target, less than their average of 15, and they only made 19 positional attacks, when they usually average 30 a match.
Their lack of attacking threat did not seem to come from tactics, but from maybe from fatigue or just a general lack of effort.
The graph below shows that Sevilla’s created the most chances, more efficiently from the right side of the pitch.
Sarabia, who played on the right, had a really good game. With 78% of his offensive duels won, he had five touches in the opposition’s box and made three progressive runs.
Ben Yedder, a striker, made the same amount of touches in the box, as well as only one progressive run. He was also caught offside four times. Alongside him was El Haddadi, who did not have a single touch in the opposition’s box and winning only 57% of their aerial duels.
Comparing the three attackers’ heatmaps also showcases that Sarabia was the most involved in Sevilla’s attacking play.
The match was quite insignificant for Atlético Madrid, the only thing that they’ll be disappointed in is not getting the three points for Godín’s last home game before he leaves the club. Tactically, they were able to handle Sevilla’s defensive set up by having Koke play through the defensive lines. Partey’s ability to constantly track back and be involved in the attack is also a crucial reason as to why Atlético Madrid were leading for so long.
Sevilla adapted and were able to handle Koke’s through balls, and they did well to only concede once. However, their attacking threat seemed lacklustre and never truly troubled Atlético Madrid’s defence. Their slim chance of Champions League football relies on them winning their last game of the season, as well as hoping Getafe and Valencia suffer defeats in the last matchweek of La Liga.
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