Honestly, i still cannot decide whether i am happy or sad about the draw. Villareal was the team i desperately wanted to avoid, specially due to their frustrating low block. Most people thought i went crazy when i wrote in my last blog that i would actually love us to get Bayern. The reason was that i wanted us to play end to end free flowing football and not strain ourselves mentally with the low block, specially before the Liverpool game.
After drawing Athletico, a lot of City fans on social media were worried and they were talking about our abysmal record against park the bus teams like Lyon in the past. I would not disagree with them on our previous record, but we are a much better team than 2 seasons ago. The way we defend against counter attacks is so much more comfortable now. The thing that has changed is the shape in which we defend against these teams. Also, Pep playing Bernardo in the midfield means that we have someone with incredible engine to carry the ball up and down the pitch relentlessly. I honestly think that Bernardo in that box to box role was the missing peice of the puzzle.
Athletico Madrid is everything opposite to what Man City represents and stands for. This is not just a clash between 2 footballing giants. It is a clash of 2 different ways of thinking on how football should be played. It is infact a fight between a possession based philosophy which everyone thinks is the future and a counter attacking philosophy that has been succesful in the past, but is now fading into oblivion and struggling to stay alive.
Pep said in the press conference afterwards that we need to be clever against Athletico Madrid. Yes, Atletico Madrid are not the team they once were and they are sort of on the decline. But their experience of playing in the latter stages of the Champions league for most of the last decade will surely be a huge advantage for them. Specially when the situations become tight and pressure kicks in. The advantage of having experience is that you know how to control the situation, rather than it being the other way round. They will know exactly when to break the tempo and when to inject speed in the game. This is what Pep was talking about, when he meant we should be very clever when playing Athletico.
This is a clash of 2 personas and personalities. It is a contest between 2 teams that represent the identity of their managers on the field better than anyone elese. This clash will be decided by mentality and the ability to handle pressure situations. It is a match up that is slowly simmering in the background and is ready to explode with unimaginable intensity