GB: Can you shed some light on Atletico Madrid's tactics?
CD: They play 4-4-2 with a low block and force people into the center, tackle, then move diagonally wide and back in via crossing or Costa square back to Villa. You rarely see a goal scored from a wide position, its always central, but almost every attack spreads wide before coming back in. That space between the lines is a killer for any team playing Atleti.
GB: One of Milan's key to success against Barcelona was pressing, but AM has taken it to a new level, while the current Milan squad seems to not understand the meaning of the word. How do they press and what will happen to Milan?
CD: They press high almost immediately with Turan, Koke, Villa and Costa but don't really over commit in terms of Gabi and Tiago/Suarez, their CMs, getting dragged out of place. Low volume of touches in midfield and thats one of the reasons their possession numbers are low in general. High press/low block. When they don't have the ball, its almost a 4-6-0 but with the 6 looking to converge in the middle/direct traffic there. It helps that they all are great at intercepting. The pressure on Montolivo will be immense.
GB: How will Milan fare on the flanks? The switch to the 4-2-3-1 has open a door for opponents, can we cope?
CD: Turan and Koke are creative wingers and sort of strange because their natural game isn that of wingers but creative mids. Actually, Honda can play a similar role for us and Ljajic definitely could have. That should tell you what they are like really. Both of them are excellent at through balls. Against teams who defend deep, Turan/Koke long ball to Costa, who is superb in the air, is their go-to.
GB: We have talked about AM's throwback to the 90's Serie A, where are the parallels?
CD: Their midfield in general reads the game very well and should have stellar interception numbers with high tackle volumes in defense. The CMs are never out of position. Its incredible how they aren't ever, not even against Barca or Real. We will, without even intending to, have more possession than them. Basically, they are a narrow old-school Italian team that says, well, if you have to beat us, you wont do it through the center so good luck trying the flanks which we really wont let you go down but youre welcome to try.. Its weird because even though they play nothing alike, they remind me of Batistutas Fiorentina with Villa as Batistuta, Costa as Edmundo, Koke as Rui Costa etc.
GB: Are they susceptible at the back?
CD: Defensively, they defend desperately and its more their collective than any one player. CBs are good in the air, good concentration, do not play the ball out from the back. Felipe Luis is excellent and probably the best fullback in La Liga for my money. Great attacking outlet as well. Abate will have his hands full. Juanfran is more conservative.
GB: Purists call AM a bunch of thugs and say Simeone has them play like he did, thoughts?
CD: They foul a lot. They are like Simeone really, created in his image. They defend setpieces generally well but you can score on them that way. On the converse, everyone will get carded for fouls on Costa. And we dont do well at setpieces so thats a mixed bag.
GB: I am envious of the first/second striker duo of Costa and Villa, Milan can't seem to emulate that?
CD: Its also not very often you see the 4-4-2 with the big man/little man thing anymore. They behave exactly as they should in that dynamic. Costa is also a real leader on the pitch and for my money is the second best striker in the world after Zlatan himself (unpopular opinion alert).
GB: Lots of talk that AM play ugly football, but they make up for in other ways, I for one don't care, you?
CD: Their passing doesn't always come off and they don't care because they regain shape super fast. Gabi and Tiago would be laughed out of Barcelona or Arsenal or whoever.
GB: How do we beat AM?
CD: Beating them, to me, requires taking advantage of the few holes they have, forcing the game out wide and moving it back in; a superhuman effort out wide and real awareness of where Villa is and when he makes the run in behind+hope that Costa doesnt bludgeon his way past the defense.
GB: Do you expect Simeone to throw a curve ball to mess with Clarence?
CD: There is very little rotation of the squad or even much variation to their basic philosophy. I mean, why would they need that when what they are doing is so hard to beat and effective?