Twelve years after the Glasgow final, where they defeated Bayer Leverkusen, Real Madrid have finally managed to claim La Decima, the tenth Champions League trophy during their glorious football history.
Without offering too much importance to the fairness of the match’s final result, since there is no such thing as justice in football, one of the most interesting aspects of last Saturday’s match was the tactical battle between Carlo Ancelotti and Diego Simeone, two of the best head coaches currently working in the so-called “modern football”.
The charismatic Argentinean manager opted for his usual tactical approach and displayed a classic 4-4-2 style with Diego Costa and David Villa up in the front. His tactical plan didn’t last long, however, since the Brazilian born Spanish sharpshooter sucumbed to his recent injury and was substituted by Adrián immediately on the ninth minute of the first-half. Being forced to do that, Simeone had to slightly transform his tactical approach into something similar to a 4-4-1-1 system, with Adrián lurking behind David Villa.
The problem of Atléti was, in fact, not related to the tactical system prepared by Diego Simeone, but rather to the players’ physical condition during the entire match. Los Colchoneros looked exhausted right from the very beginning, but they still found a way to counter Real Madrid’s attempts almost throughout the entire match. Their centre midfield duo, Tiago and Gabi, and their skilled and versatile wide midfielder, Koke, ran almost 10 miles during the entire match, something that easily explains how demanding Simeone’s tactical scheme is and how exhausting the entire season has been for all of them.
As for Real Madrid, Carlo Ancelotti was also faithful to his usual 4-3-3 with the double pivot system he implemented after arriving at Los Blancos this season. With Cristiano Ronaldo miles away from his best after the injury he suffered against Valladolid a few weeks ago, Real Madrid lost some depth in their game and had to rely on Gareth Bale and Di Maria’s incursions to create some danger to Courtois’ net. Khedira replaced the suspended Xabi Alonso at the centre of the pitch, but he was never able to replicate the Basque playmaker’s influence in the midfield and left the playmaking task to a hard working Luka Modric, who was also never capable of building up Real’s game from behind.
The great improvement on Real Madrid’s game was the way Carlo Ancelotti prepared his side defensively. In order to respond to the team’s constant shortage of defensive players during the match, the Italian manager implemented a 4-4-2 style for his side to use during their defensive tasks and he harvested some profits from that. The team looked more cohese and Atlético never found a way to disturb Casillas, with the exception of Godin’s goal later in the first-half that resulted from a personal error from the experienced Spanish goalkeeper.
To sum things up, from a tactical point of view, Carlo Ancelotti was also the winner of the night as he managed to counter Atlético’s strong will and determination with a 4-3-3 system that pundits have already labeled as inadequate or frail, and, with that, the manager won the most wanted trophy of European football.