Tactical Analysis: Atletico Madrid vs FC Barcelona

By Luismi Loro

24-November-2020 on Analysis

11 minute read

In our weekly series of tactical analysis, professional analyst Luismi Loro uses Nacsport, in conjunction with KlipDraw to break down some of the weekend’s biggest games.


Spain is calling this week and a La Liga classic between Atletico Madrid and FC Barcelona, as voted for by Nacsport users on our Twitter channel.


Over to Luismi…

Note: This article was translated from Spanish and pics are captioned in Spanish. We have provided a translation for captions in italics beneath each picture.



In this game, there were two completely different teams with two completely different attitudes. On one side, Atletico, full of confidence and positivity after their sterling start to season and on the other, Barcelona, filled with doubt after a terrible run of results which currently sees them sitting in an unprecedented 13th position in La Liga.


Without doubt, this was an important match for two rivals who we’re used to seeing battle each other for league titles. Barcelona took to the field and tried to hit hard and fast in order to break their league juju, and Atletico, perhaps more cautious, attempting to keep up their good run on home turf.

In the end, Atletico prevailed, with one goal being all that separated the two teams, their first home victory in La Liga against Barcelona in 10 years.


Keys to the Game


Tactical Surprises from Diego “El Cholo” Simeone


The game started out with a surprising tactical variation on Atletico’s usual game system. On the ball the team lined up in a 3-1-4-2 formation with Hermoso, Savic and Gimenez controlling the game and build up at the back. Trippier and Carrasco ran the wings, giving Atletico depth. Koke slotted in just behind Barça’s forward line as a playmaker whilst a great deal of mobility was provided by the forward line, 4 players in constant rotation looking to control the midfield and break through the opposition defence.


Tactical Analysis Atletico Madrid vs Barcelona 2


Defensive line of 3 with Hermoso


In defence, Atletico leant towards a 5-3-2, a slight change from El Cholo’s classic 4-4-2. Again, this small change took Barcelona by surprise, especially when using Carrasco as a foil against Dembele out on the wing. Carrasco is usually an extremely attacking player who can have problems with defensive tactics, but, in this match, he played a great game, both in defence and offence. The battle between these two players was epic and exciting.


Tactical Analysis Atletico Madrid vs Barcelona 3


Atletico in medium / low block in 5-3-2


On the other hand, there were few surprises in the Barcelona line up as they fielded their usual 4-2-3-1 with variations on the outside depending on who was playing winger and who was supporting. On the left, if Alba came forward, he gave the team some depth and remained open. When Pedri took on this role, he tended to take on a more midfield role, feeding the ball forward. The right wingers had a similar system with Dembele giving depth and looking for 1vs1 situations whilst Sergi Roberto sat back a bit more, helping to play the ball out of defence or making himself useful in midfield, depending on where the game was at the time.


Tactical Analysis Atletico Madrid vs Barcelona 4


Barcelona in 4-2-3-1 / Depth on the outside for Alba and Dembele


In defence, Barcelona kept a 4-4-2, sticking to defending in their own half and not applying much high pressure on Atletico. This meant that they had some difficulty in recovering the ball, especially due to inherent doubts when it came to deciding which player would pick up the slack in the middle. Atletico typically dominated in attack with 3vs2 forcing Barcelona into retreat. 


Tactical Analysis Atletico Madrid vs Barcelona 5


Barcelona in medium / low block in 4-4-2


The game started well for Barcelona and they dominated possession, finding space and circulating quickly from one side to the other to generate 2vs1 opportunities against Carrasco or getting Dembele into a one on one situation against the same.


Tactical Analysis Atletico Madrid vs Barcelona 6


All illustrations in this article have been created using KlipDraw


In fact, the first opportunity on goal came from this type of play. Dembele beat Carrasco 1vs1 on the outside, but Griezmann failed to finish the resulting cross into the box.


Tactical Analysis Atletico Madrid vs Barcelona 7


1 vs 1 situation with Dembele and Carrasco


This was one of the few times Dembele would get the upper hand against Carrasco, who learned from his mistakes and was backed up expertly by Hermoso and Saul.


Atletico managed to get the ball out quickly and move with purpose. This provided them with several opportunities, including a shot from Saul from outside the area and several chances for Llorente, who caused a lot of problems as he broke through Barça’s defensive lines. Atletico had at least two clear cut scoring opportunities.


Tactical Analysis Atletico Madrid vs Barcelona 8


Barcelona had problems in organising their defensive line


Tactical Analysis Atletico Madrid vs Barcelona 9


Llorente attacking the box with ball from the wing


Tactical Analysis Atletico Madrid vs Barcelona 10


Llorente on the attack going through the middle


Atletico grew in stature throughout the game and just got better and better when on the ball, making it difficult for Barcelona to regain control.


In addition to their indecision in defence, there was a certain amount of disorganisation between Dembele, Roberto and Pique when it came to stopping Carrasco, Saul and Félix, who constantly pulled out Roberto, breaking through the second line.


Tactical Analysis Atletico Madrid vs Barcelona 11


Atletico linking up well for the attack between Barcelona's lines


Barcelona simply couldn’t find the space on the inside. Messi was marked out of the game and had to go out wide in order to participate effectively. Atletico gave him some space, knowing that he presented little direct danger.


Tactical Analysis Atletico Madrid vs Barcelona 12


Every time Messi received the ball, 4 or 5 players swarmed him, playing him out of the game


Tactical Analysis Atletico Madrid vs Barcelona 13


Messi dropping back and wide to receive the ball


Just before half time, an error by Barcelona which saw Ter Stegen miles outside his area, gifted Carrasco, who surely must be considered as man of the match, an open goal. He duly converted, giving Atletico a one goal lead, effectively putting the game beyond Barça.


Tactical Analysis Atletico Madrid vs Barcelona 14


The situation that led to the goal, Ter Stegen miles out of his box and an easy finish for Carrasco


Atletico continued to dominate the match, both on and off the ball. They exerted control, expertly keeping Barcelona in the areas of the pitch they wanted them to be and where there was no danger.


They kept attacking the space gifted to them by Barcelona and the game always seemed closer to 2-0 than 1-1.


Barcelona did have a period of dominance in the last 15 minutes of the game, with a couple of headers that went straight to the keepers hands and a long range shot or too.


The match ended with injuries to Pique and Roberto, rubbing salt into the wound of defeat for the Catalonian club.


A famous and deserved victory for Atletico.




• A massive win for Atletico which will fill them with confidence.

• Atletico are elevated to one of the favourites to win the league title.

• Simeone far superior to Koeman tactically.

• A fair result in a match where Atletico dominated.

• Atletico stole Barcelona’s thunder in a La Liga classic.

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