MADRID (AP) — Diego Simeone is going back to basics to get Atletico Madrid back on track.
After an unusual streak of disappointing results, when the team’s new attacking style failed to work, Simeone reverted to the proven defensive setup that led Atletico to recent glories, and it paid off right away with a solid performance against PSV Eindhoven in the Champions League on Wednesday.
Playing balanced soccer again, Madrid defeated PSV 2-0 at the Vicente Calderon Stadium to win its fifth straight in the Champions League and secure first place in its group.
Now the hope is that the old tactics will steer the team in the right direction in the Spanish league, where Atletico has lost three of its last four games, including 3-0 at home to Real Madrid in the city derby last weekend.
“There are several different ways to win,” Simeone said. “Whichever way is executed correctly is the right one. I’m not surprised by the criticism because of the changes in how the team plays. The situations change. We will be evaluated for what we do in the end of the season.”
Simeone adjusted the team’s traditionally staunch defensive scheme after injuries forced him to make some changes in the midfield. And with the signing of some players up front in the offseason, the coach saw the possibility of adding some offensive power to the squad.
Simeone started playing with talented youngster Saul Niguez in one of the defensive midfield positions along with Gabi Fernandez and Jorge “Koke” Resurreccion. The formation, without the more defensive Tiago, allows for more freedom in the attack but also jeopardizes the protection in front of the defense.
Simeone said after Wednesday’s game that he felt the team was “more solid” with Tiago in the squad.
“With Tiago in the middle he has a more fixed position,” Simeone said. “He is able to share the work with Gabi and Koke to occupy spaces.”
The switch, as surprising as it was in the beginning of the season, worked well early on and was widely praised by most critics. The team maintained the league’s best defense in relation to goals conceded, but the attack scored a lot more compared to previous seasons.
Recently, though, the defense started faltering and the goals stopped coming.
Before the victory over PSV, Atletico lost two straight games in the league, being outscored 5-0. In the three games before that, Atletico conceded four goals despite winning twice.
With Tiago back in a more secure midfield on Wednesday, Atletico earned its first clean sheet in six games.
Simeone has hinted that he will set up his team depending on the situation and the opponent. Atletico’s next game is Sunday in the Spanish league against second-to-last place Osasuna, the recently promoted team which hasn’t won in four matches.
The loss to leader Madrid, with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring all three goals, dropped Atletico to sixth place. Even if it beats Osasuna, Atletico will only be able to tie Sevilla for third.
Madrid will host struggling Sporting Gijon on Saturday, while second-place Barcelona plays at fifth-place Real Sociedad on Sunday. Barcelona is four points behind Madrid.