Without doubt, the 22 protagonists who step onto the field of play will be the centre of attention, and it will be those players who put on a spectacle for the thousands of fans who fill the stadium. However on Saturday, in the match between the league’s top two, Club Atlético de Madrid and FC Barcelona, attention will also be paid to the sidelines.
Both Diego Pablo Simeone and Gerardo Martino have lots of things in common. They’re both Argentinean, they both won titles in their playing days, they played in Spain, they’re successful coaches, and both have nicknames (‘Cholo’ Simeone and ‘Tata’ Martino)…. Curiously, there is one thing they don’t share. They each view football very differently. However within this, they do have one thing in common: their teams win.
Simeone: brave, passionate, the man who always says ‘game by game’, has just celebrated two years in charge at Atlético, and in that time success and happiness has returned to the Vicente Calderón. One UEFA Europa League, a UEFA Supercup, and a Copa del Rey, and now the dream of winning Liga BBVA, 19 years later.
Gerardo Martino: calm but a man with character, the man who when he arrived was asked about his pistachio green polo shirt (“my wife bought it!”, he said), has had success in his first campaign with the Catalan side, and the stats don’t lie; and neither does the football in the majority of games. He didn’t lose his first, and only, game in Liga BBVA until the 15th round of matches against Athletic Club.
The match this Saturday at the Estadio Vicente Calderón will be the sides’ third meeting of the season, following the Supercopa de España in August (won by Barcelona on away goals). The sides face off level on points (49) and with the symbolic title of winter champion on the line.
Simeone will ask that his team maintain their order and defensive structure, combined with strong pressing in addition to hoping that his spearhead Diego Costa can take any opportunities presented to him. Despite the fact it is thought that ‘Cholo’ is a defensive coach (his side have conceded the fewest goals in Liga BBVA), Atlético have scored the third highest amount of goals in the league.
For their part, Martino’s side will try and control possession from the off. A lot of the ball, combined with quick transitions into attack are the strongest qualities that ‘Tata’s’ Barcelona possess, and he will ask that his players press hard to recover the ball as soon as possible. Everything is set to see which style of play will come out on top at the Calderón.