Atlético Madrid hosted Sevilla in this week’s La Liga round 27 fixture. Los Colchoneros had enjoyed positive results lately, winning 3 and draw two of their last five matches, including a huge win over the mighty Liverpool. Sevilla had also done well recently, getting past CFR Cluj in the Europa League Round of 32 and won their last two La Liga matches, including an impressive 3-0 demolition over direct Champions League spot rival Getafe at their own turf. This is another important match for them as Atleti were looking to take back their third place.
In this tactical analysis, we will delve into both sides’ tactics, and how Sevilla held Atlético Madrid to a draw.
Atletico Madrid (4-4-2): Jan Oblak; Mario Hermoso, Felipe, Stefan Savić, Kieran Trippier; Koke, Saúl Ñíguez, Marcos Llorente, Ángel Correa; João Félix, Álvaro Morata.
Sevilla (4-1-4-1): Tomáš Vaclík; Sergio Reguilón, Diego Carlos, Jules Koundé, Jesús Navas; Nemanja Gudelj; Lucas Ocampos, Éver Banega, Joan Jordán, Suso; Luuk de Jong.
Atleti in possession
With the likes of Oblak and Savić awkward with the ball, Atleti didn’t really try to play from the back. When being pressed, they often launched the ball upfield and tried to win second balls through the likes of Morata and Saúl. Only 18% of their possession was in their own third.
When having the ball in the middle of the pitch, Atleti didn’t want to have long possession sequences, instead trying to advance quickly to the opponent’s box. They could do so by long balls over the top – which were quite terrible – or by overloading an area and try to get through the opponent’s defence by quick combinations. The likes of Koke and Félix showed great technique and vision to help their side progress in tight areas. In the below example, wonderful quick combinations on the wings between Saúl, Koke and Félix helped set up a one-on-one for Morata, which the striker failed to capitalise on.
The above image also showed that in possession, Atletico used a compact shape. Here, the ball was on the left, and Correa and Trippier positioned in the right half-space.
Atleti mostly progressed through the centre, with wide midfielders Koke and Correa tucking in, and Félix often dropping deep – while Correa positioned high and close to Morata. Félix, Saúl and Koke had great awareness and often positioned themselves in pockets of space, creating penetrative passing lanes for their teammates. That was demonstrated in the image below.
Sevilla defended in 5-4-1, which might become a 5-3-2 with a winger moving high to press. De Jong marked a pivot, while the midfield tried to stay compact to prevent progression, but one winger might step out, especially when there was a backpass or a sideways pass. In such cases, Sevilla would press all the way back to Oblak, forcing the keeper to pass long. Gudelj became the third centre-back so that his side have more men around Morata, who was Atleti’s target man – Atleti normally progress with long balls towards him and try to win second balls.
When Sevilla tried to press in Atleti’s half, their back five (except for the ball-near full-back who might step out to press Atleti’s ball-near winger) remained quite deep, preventing long balls over the top. This left a gap between their midfield and defence, which the likes of Félix and Correa exploited. However, Atleti’s defenders were often not composed enough to scan the field and find them with a ground pass. The below image showed one instance when they successfully did so. Sevilla’s midfield and right-back Navas overloaded the ball-near area, but Hermoso passed through the press towards Félix, whose smart positioning opened up a quality passing lane for his teammate. Félix then had time and space to dribble forward and launch a quick attack.
In Sevilla’s half, Atleti often attacked through central combinations. Félix, Correa and Koke were again key to this with their movements and one-twos. However, Sevilla’s back five along with Banega and Jordán made it difficult for Atleti to combine into the box. When getting into zone 14, Atleti seemed impatient and often resorted to long shots, most of which were of low quality.
With the central overload narrowing Sevilla’s shape, Atleti could also attack through their full-backs, who often had time and space as a result. The absence of Renan Lodi limited Atleti’s danger on the left, so the home side focus on feeding Trippier, who record most touches for Atleti last night. After combining with Correa and Llorente, the Englishman could then dribble and deliver quality crosses. He registered the most crosses (9) and the most accurate crosses (4) of all players on the field.
Sevilla in possession
Unlike the home side, Sevilla did play from the back. The side mostly used a 3-4-2-1 in possession with Gudelj and Banega dropping deep to help the full-back and either of the two (mostly Gudelj) playing as a third centre-back, while Jordán roamed between Atleti’s first two lines. Sevilla’s defenders and the three nominal midfielders are quite comfortable with the ball, and with Atleti not trying to win the ball high up the pitch at all costs, often passed their way through Atleti’s first line of pressing.
As seen from the picture above, Atleti defended in their famous 4-4-2, which almost always maintained their horizontal and vertical compactness. In addition, Félix and Morata were close to Banega and Jórdan’s position, meaning Sevilla had to rely on their full-backs to carry the ball forward. Suso and Ocampos would move to the half-space to open penetrative passing lanes, while also leaving space on the flanks for Reguilón and Navas to run into. Suso was very active in the build-up, freely roaming around to provide a passing option, sometimes dropping near the half-way line, as shown in the above image.
Atleti’s aim was to force the opponent to play through the wings and then rush at them if they passed back. When a Sevilla full-back received the ball, the whole shape would shift across, limiting his nearby passing options. However, Navas and Reguilón are very pressing-resistant and can always dribble inward when pressed, making themselves a free man in the centre in the process. As analyst Adin Osmanbasic said: “Even the best- prepared pressing teams normally have longer distances to travel when pressing diagonally out toward a fullback, and maintaining distances in the team during the pressing run is difficult – which opens more clear dribbling paths.”
In the below example, Navas used his pace to get past both Félix and Koke before dribbling towards the centre. Jordán smartly made a wide run. Saúl, who was looking to close down Jordán, now couldn’t do so as he had to stop Navas’ run. Navas passed to Jordán, who could now run unmarked.
After beating Atleti’s first line of pressing, Sevilla would try to advance through either wing with wide overloads. Banega, Jordán and the two wingers were allowed a lot of freedom to do so. After wide combinations, Sevilla could attack with crosses into the box or passes back towards zone 14, where the midfielders and Suso often roamed. They could then look to shoot or send penetrative passes into the box, towards the half-space runs of Ocampos – he could then shoot or try to find De Jong in the six-yard box.
These ideas were demonstrated in the below image. Suso was lurking just in front of the box, while Ocampos was waiting for Jordán’s penetrative pass. Jordán did find Ocampos, and the latter then took a dangerous shot.
Second half changes
The first half was quite chaotic with controversial VAR decisions and two goals for each side. In the 54th minute, Yannick Carrasco replaced Hermoso, who didn’t contribute much to his side’s attack, and pushed Saúl back to his unfavoured left-back position. Saúl could at times create danger with his inward dribbling, while Carrasco and Félix’s explosiveness troubled Sevilla’s defence. The Belgian international unfortunately missed a golden opportunity. Julen Lopetegui realised the danger and bring on centre-back Sergi Gómez for Jordán in the 74th minute. Sevilla still defended in a 5-4-1, but now with three true centre-backs, which brought them solidity. They were happy to settle for a draw. Atleti showed great desire in the final 15 minutes but were unable to break down Sevilla’s solid defence. The match ended 2-2.
This analysis showed that this was a rather fair result for both sides. Atleti showcased good central combinations but did not consistently create clear chances and when they did, they wasted them. Sevilla didn’t create many chances themselves but finished them well, and defended well to hold on to a draw. Atleti was probably the side less happy with this result, but could at least now take a deep breath neither Getafe nor Real Sociedad got three points this week. All of these sides would now try to win as much as they can to ensure a Champions League spot next season.