Manuel Pellegrini - Màlaga Manager
"We play against a direct rival. It is a very important game to overcome. "
"Falcao is a very good player and is demonstrating that he is an extraordinary striker here, as he did in Latin America and with the Colombian national team. "
With this match sandwiched between Copa del Rey games with Real Madrid, Pellegrini had to rotate his squad whilst ensuring a strong side played against opponents looking for European football next season. He made five changes with Mathijsen, Van Nistelrooy, Apono, Sanchez and Seba Fernandez all dropping out. The Engineer went for youth in attacking areas with Isco (19), Juanmi (18) and Rondón (22), reported Atlético target Diego Buonanotte (23) also started.
Diego Simeone - Atlético Madrid Manager
"I like to see my teams making an effort, I like balanced sides, ones who know how to play and not only when they have possession of the ball. "
"I'm not interested in one player scoring 25 goals (in a season), if the team itself suffers. "
This is Diego Simone's first game in charge after Gregorio Manzano was sacked just before Christmas. Since El Cholo has arrived back in Madrid, he has talked about a more direct counter attacking style, a less patient build up and playing more vertically. In AS this week it was reported the team would play in a 4-1-4-1. There were five changes from Manzano's last game in charge a 1-0 defeat to Albacete. The image above shows number 8 as Raul Garcia but it was actually Eduardo Salvio.
The game started fast as both sides looked to break with speed and get in behind the opposition's defence. There was a considerable gap in the opening exchanges between the solo strikers and the attacking midfielders. Long balls from the centre-backs were directed forward with Málaga the more accurate and Rondón's movement the better - in the opening 10 minutes Málaga played three long balls forward trying to use the strikers pace. A combination of the atmosphere, tempo of passing and closing down of the opposition, contributed to a quick match, despite this there were few clear-cut chances from open play. The wingers of Atlético started on opposing wings, but changed very early on and seemed to grow into the half when given the chance to run at the full-backs.
Despite operating in different systems the sides were effectively 3 v 3 in the middle. Toulalan and Tiago looked to break up the attacking instincts of Isco and Diego, whilst Gabi kept a watchful eye on deep lying creator Santi Cazorla. The former Villarreal playmaker drifted around looking to find space and impact on the game. With the central areas compact and quick passing broken up, it was down to whom could counter attack the best or which side would make a mistake.
Atléti's physical approach
One thing Diego Simeone was known for in his playing days was his competitive style, his side were either following his instructions to break up the play or keen to impress and a little over zealous at times. In the opening 23 minutes, Atlético had conceded 12 fouls compared to Málaga's 6. In Manzano's last league game in charge, a defeat to Real Betis, they made just 10 fouls in the whole of the match. His side were well organised and better without the ball than with, something which he had alluded to earlier in the week.
With the Madrid side conceding plenty of free kicks around the penalty area and with Cazorla's distribution from set pieces, it was of little surprise that the home teams best chances came from two free kicks - Rondón's header and a scramble later in the half.
Little changed in the second half, although Atléti started faster and had more possession than the first. The disappointment from both sides was that more wasn't made from the wide areas, service was poor for the central strikers and the full backs didn't venture forward that much, with Filipe probably being the best of the attacking full backs.
The introduction of Ruud Van Nistelrooy in the 68th minute saw Málaga shift to a 4-2-2-2 formation. Los Boquerones substitutes were that of experience which didn't help raise the tempo as the game petered off. Atlético's work rate early on and Málaga's midweek game left both sides lethargic.
Having started the game with the worst away record in the whole of Europe's top five divisions, Atléti will be happy to have come away from the game with a point. The organisational skills of Simeone should mean they will be harder to beat in the future as there work rate off the ball and positional work helps to build a solid defensive base. It will take time to build a quick counter attacking unit, getting more out of his wingers will become a priority in not just the transitional stage between defence and attack but also in playing to the strengths of Falcao. Adrián can count himself a little unfortunate not to be involved more after an impressive start to his Atléti career.
Pellegrini will have been disappointed not to have made more of the extra possession his side had. The squad is still under construction and not yet at the stage where they can comfortably deal with 3 games in 8 days.
"There was no one thinking of the Cup. I liked the creation of the first half and the second weighed us from the game against Madrid. "
"I thought I saw a united team with character, with more clear scoring situations. We played the game I wanted to play, taking chances. "