Since Diego Simeone took over at Atletico Madrid way back in December 2011, we’ve seen the same thing pretty much year on year.
A rigid 442 system with a solid defensive base, low block in midfield and individual brilliance in attack.
It was the way when they made it to two Champions League finals in three years, although they lost both, but also the way they won La Liga in 2014. This year though, they sit top of La Liga with a ten point lead and a game in hand over their rivals in the race to win the title.
The level of performance this season has been similar to that of previous years, but a new element has been introduced with Simeone introducing a new 352 system.
An extra defender added into an already solid back-line has seen Atleti concede just ten goals in the league so far this season after 19 games, while the addition of wing-backs and maintaining a front two has seen them score 40 times – just once less than Barcelona despite playing a game less.
A big part of that success has obviously been the form of summer signing Luis Suarez, who has scored 14 league goals this season to lead the Pichichi charts. But it’s also been the willingness of Simeone to change something that had been synonymous with his reign at the club of almost ten years.
He’s found a way to balance the excellent defending that his sides are famous for, while also managing to get more attacking options on the pitch playing well together.
Joao Felix and Suarez’s partnership has been good, while Angel Correa, Marcos Llorente, Yannick Carrasco, Kieran Trippier and even Thomas Lemar have seen their performances rise this season from last.
The tactical versatility they now have, along with the quality in their squad and the huge gap they have in the title race domestically mean they have a huge chance of winning the Champions League this season.
They take on Chelsea in the last 16, who are under new management and still adapting to a new style without firing on all cylinders and will be confident of progression over two legs. But after that they should be confident no matter who they come up against.
The power and quality in attack, the robustness in defence and the overall ability in both directions in midfield means Simeone has not only one of the best squads in Spain, but in Europe too.
After two failed attempts at a Champions League final and two successful Europa League winning campaigns, Simeone will have his best chance at winning the big one this year – and it’s all thanks to his new system.