Atletico's tough defense meets Bayern's top offense in semis
ABS-CBN Sports on Apr 27, 2016 10:53 AM
Atletico's head coach Diego Simeone, right, and player Gabriel Fernandez "Gabi" take their seats for a news conference at the Vicente Calderon stadium in Madrid, Tuesday, April 26, 2016. Atletico Madrid will play a Champions League semifinal, 1st leg soccer match against Bayern Munich on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Paul White)
TALES AZZONI, AP Sports Writer
MADRID (AP) — Pep Guardiola's compelling offense and Diego Simeone's tough defense will be put to the test when Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid meet in the Champions League semifinals on Wednesday.
Atletico will have the edge in the first leg at its Vicente Calderon Stadium, where it has lost only twice in 29 games in European competitions, and only once in the Spanish league this season.
"The biggest achievement for Atletico is that now it can be compared to Barcelona and Real Madrid," Guardiola said. "This is Simeone's biggest achievement."
Atletico's fierce defensive scheme has let in only five goals, the least along with Real Madrid.
Meanwhile, Bayern arrives with 28 goals from 10 games, the most among all teams this season.
"I'm expecting a hard match against an opponent with a lot of attacking potential, against a coach who changes from game to game," Simeone said. "Obviously we have a coach and players with different characteristics. But in wars it isn't the side with the most soldiers that wins, it's the side that uses its soldiers better."
Bayern midfielder Xabi Alonso expects an "evenly balanced" match in Madrid.
"The defense is clearly one of their strengths, but it's not only that. Atletico know how to play football and are very dangerous in attack. They win possession by aggressive pressing and then play very directly, quickly, and vertically towards goal. We have to be clever."
Atletico has become a force in Europe since the arrival of Simeone, who introduced a team-first attitude and helped the club become one of the toughest to beat against anybody. Atletico has conceded only 21 goals in 45 games over the Champions League and the Spanish league this season.
"Atletico have developed an idea and they pursue it consistently," Bayern midfielder Thiago Alcantara said. "We know it's going to be a very difficult match at the Vicente Calderon. In terms of atmosphere, it's one of the best arenas in Europe. We have to focus on our play, we mustn't lose control if we're to achieve a good result for the return."
Bayern, in the semifinals for the fifth straight season, has been successful thanks to Guardiola's trademark offensive prowess. Bayern also leads the Champions League in attempts on goal, with 86, almost nine per game.
"You can play football with different styles. Bayern has its own style and we have ours," Atletico midfielder Augusto Fernandez said. "We play to win every game, and it's easier if we don't concede any goals."
The teams also met in the 1974 final, when Bayern won the first of its five European titles. Atletico, yet to win the competition, is in the semifinals for the third time in three seasons. It lost the 2014 final to Real Madrid.
Simeone will likely be without defender Diego Godin because of a muscle injury, while Guardiola may have Jerome Boateng, who hasn't played since hurting his groin in January.
Atletico is in a close fight for the Spanish league title with Barcelona and Real Madrid, while Bayern is one win away from clinching the Bundesliga for the fourth straight season.
AP Sports Writer Nesha Starcevic contributed to this report.
Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni