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Heineken UCL Special: Man City vs Atletico Madrid: Will Guardiola’s Tactical Overthinking Cost His Team Again?

Heineken UCL Special: Man City vs Atletico Madrid: Will Guardiola’s Tactical Overthinking Cost His Team Again?

Manchester City will lock horns with Atletico Madrid at the Etihad on Tuesday night in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League quarter-final tie.

City are looking to reach the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League for the second successive season, with Real Madrid or Chelsea awaiting the winners of the clash between the reigning Premier League and Spanish champions.


Atletico travel to the Etihad Stadium on a six-match winning streak – their best run in four years – while the Sky Blues are preparing to enter a season-defining period – with matches against Atletico and Liverpool.

Pep Guardiola’s men made quick work of Sporting Lisbon, thrashing them 5-0 on aggregate to set up this quarter-final tie against the Los Colchoneros, while the La Liga club narrowly overcame Manchester United with a 2-1 aggregate win last month.



Tuesday’s first-leg is set to be incredibly tactical, with both Guardiola and Diego Simeone lauded for their managerial success throughout the world.

However, in previous Champions League campaigns, Guardiola has come under intense scrutiny for his team selection and systems.

The 50-year-old gaffer has been frequently criticised for overthinking things. Most recently in the last season’s Champions League final against Chelsea, where the Catalan opted not to play a central defensive midfielder.

Questions have also been asked in the past about his team selection against Liverpool, Spurs, and Lyon in the European competition – and Guardiola has joked that Tuesday’s first-leg tie against Atletico would see some “incredible tactics.”

Speaking to the media on Monday, ahead of the game, the City manager sarcastically said; “In the Champions League always I overthink.

“New tactics, tomorrow you will see a new one. I overthink a lot, that’s why I have very good results in the CL. It would be boring if I always played the same way. If people think I play the same against Atletico and Liverpool, I don’t like it.”

Guardiola continued, “The movements are different, the players are all different with different personalities. That’s why I overthink and create stupid tactics.”

It seems rather ironic that a competition in which Guardiola achieved fame as a football manager is now the reason he is considered a failure by some. The Catalan manager was a beast at Barcelona leading his home side to conquer Europe (twice) after building one of the best teams in world football.

Since then, he has repeatedly fallen short in the Champions League despite achieving significant domestic success. He elected to leave Bayern Munich in 2016 after three years of Bundesliga dominance. The Bavarian club have not only continued that dominance since, they have also won the Champions League.

But Guardiola’s search for another European crown continues.

Winning the Champions League now seems a given; an expected result, not a wish. Not winning it is considered failure.

This season is yet another opportunity. Regarded by many as the best club side in the world right now, Manchester City are naturally expected to progress at the expense of Atletico.

City have reached the quarter-final stage for five successive seasons but they have failed at this hurdle in three of the last four seasons despite being favourites to progress on each occasion.

However, Atletico can’t be written off. The Spanish champions do not play a brand of football that will shoot the lights out and steamroll their opposition. They completely focus on the task at hand – not conceding a goal.

Simeone’s chargers have conceded just twice from their last five games and are subsequently unbeaten going into the round of fixtures leading to the Champions League round. Confidence will be up and comfortability in Manchester will certainly not be a point of concern.

With the removal of the away goals rule now, they would fancy their chances of coming out on top in a scrap. This is a potential banana skin for the English Champions.

Related: Heineken UCL Special: Defending Champions Chelsea Look To March On Amid Uncertain Future


This will be the first competitive meeting between Manchester City and Atletico Madrid.

Manchester City form guide: W-W-D-D-W

Atletico Madrid form guide: W-W-W-W-W



*This will be the first ever meeting between Manchester City and Atlético Madrid in European competition, but the fourth between the respective managers of the two clubs – Pep Guardiola (W2) and Diego Simeone (W1).

*Atlético Madrid won 1-0 against Manchester United in March, eliminating the Red Devils from this season’s UEFA Champions League. Should they win this game, it will be the first time they have won on consecutive away trips to face English in European competition.

*Manchester City have won three of their four meetings with Spanish clubs in the UEFA Champions League under Pep Guardiola (L1), with those being the most recent three. Their only meeting with a Spanish side in the knockout stages of the competition under Guardiola came in 2019-20, as they eliminated Real Madrid in the Round of 16 (4-2 on aggregate).

*Atlético Madrid will be the first side to face both Manchester United and Manchester City in the knockout stages of a European competition in a season since Juventus in the 1976-77 UEFA Cup – the Italian side would go on to progress from both of those ties, before winning the competition overall that season.

*Manchester City have only lost one of their last nine UEFA Champions League games beyond the group stage (W7 D1), with that defeat coming against Chelsea in last season’s final. Indeed, since Pep Guardiola’s first season in 2016-17, the Citizens have the highest win percentage of any team in the competition in non-group stage games (64% – 14/22).

*Diego Simeone’s Atlético Madrid side eliminated Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich in the semi-finals of the 2015-16 UEFA Champions League (2-2 on aggregate), progressing on away goals. Across the two legs, Atlético averaged just 27% possession and scored their two goals from 18 shots, while Bayern netted the same number of goals from 53 attempts.

*Manchester City have won their last three meetings with Spanish teams. This includes a pair of wins against Real Madrid in 2019/20 season and the return leg group stage victory against Barcelona at the Etihad in 2016.

*The Sky Blues have a good home record against LaLiga sides having won in 5 of the 10 overall duels till now. The remaining five games is split across 3 draws and 2 losses.

*Atletico Madrid faced off against Liverpool in this season’s group stage and lost both matches before registering a 1-0 victory at the Old Trafford. This is their first win against English clubs in six attempts having lost to Chelsea in the both legs of round of 16 knockouts last season.


We expect a high scoring affair at the Etihad on Tuesday. A majority of Manchester City’s Champions League games this season saw goals at either ends. Meanwhile, Atletico defense is a shadow of what it used to be in previous seasons.

SCORES: Man City 3-1 Atletico Madrid

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