In the Zone: analysis of the match Inter – Atletico 1-0 | UEFA Champions League

Inter recorded their ninth straight win in all competitions with a 1-0 victory over Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday.

In this article provided by FedEx, UEFA match commentator Aitor Karanka, in collaboration with UEFA’s analysis department, reflects on the tactical keys of the first leg at San Siro, including how Inter managed to create space against the visitors’ well-organized defence.

Team compositions


In the zone: defensive organization Inter – Atlético

Defensive organization of Inter and Atlético Madrid

One of the main characteristics of the goalless first half was the defensive organization and intensity of both teams. Elite football requires hard work, technical and tactical skill, and there was plenty of the former. As Karanka said, “It was the first half we were all expecting, with two very similar approaches and both teams knowing that any mistake would be punished.”

The first video above shows how the two teams work defensively: first we see Atlético’s high pressing, then Inter’s counter-pressing as Nicolo Barella intercepts the ball. The visitors then move quickly from a high block to a retreating defense and their determination to recover is evident in the recovery of right-back Nahuel Molina.

The second clip shows Inter’s high pressing on throw-ins, as well as the element of risk associated with having so many players up front. As you can see, Antoine Griezmann only needs two passes to go to the right. The issue here is the importance of man-to-man defense and the need for defenders to be able to do this well now that teams are pressing so high. In this case, Carlos Augusto reacts well to the threat.

The importance of one-on-one defense was highlighted in our analysis of the group stage, with UEFA match observers calling attention to the need for defensive balance behind the ball. The third video is dedicated to this, in which Atlético anticipates the threat of a possible counter-attack from Inter.

In an article analyzing the group stage, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer noted that “when a team is attacking, defenders must look to where the opponents are and move towards them so that if they lose the ball, the opposition cannot find an easy pass.” “

In the zone: Inter defenders

Inter rotate with strikers who come from inside

Inter changed their approach in the second half when (in the words of goalkeeper Yann Sommer) “they knew how to find space.” One of the keys was to rotate the players so they could progress with the ball on the flanks and create crossing opportunities.

As you can see from the video above, it was the local centre-backs and midfielders who went out wide, while their wingers went inside. In the first video you can see Matteo Darmian instructing Barella to stay on the wing while he takes up an advanced position inside the pitch. Thanks to Darmian’s career, Inter now have another player in attack, with three players forcing Atlético’s centre-back trio to keep an eye on them. It also poses a dilemma for visiting left-back Samuel Lino: will he mark Darmian or cover Barella?

Karanka noted that centre-backs Benjamin Pavard and Alessandro Bastoni also moved up and wide, with a second clip showing a rotation involving the former. As in the first video, Lino approaches the defender (sub Denzel Dumfries) and Pavard has space to cross.

In the zone: Inter communicate with their strikers

Inter connected with their strikers

Inter midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan told TNT Sports that Inter acted hastily in the first half, but “in the second half we realized that we had to play our game.” This meant showing more determination and courage.

As shown in the third video, Inter coach Simone Inzaghi likes his side to challenge their opponents to press high before exploiting the space they leave behind, and he connected much better with his strikers in the second period. While Atlético’s defense changed with the departure of two of their three centre-backs, the biggest factor was the role of Marko Arnautovic, who came on at half-time and was eventually named man of the match.

In the first video above, you can see Inter quickly burst into space in a counter-attack that ends with an opportunity for the Austrian veteran. Arnautovic played a key role by working between the lines, dropping deep to win the ball and create space. And in the second clip, he does just that, teaming up with Lautaro Martinez to create another great opportunity.

Karanka spoke about the scorer of Inter’s winning goal, who at 34 years old “has experience in high-level matches and showed his understanding of the game in a close match. He knew how to use space.” As the game progressed, when large spaces opened up between the defense and midfield, he knew how to get into those spaces in between.

In doing so, he and his Inter team won, while teaching the coaches a lesson in how a team can overcome a low block with smart movement.

Player Development Lessons

“These insights are part of a strategy to translate the results of our club and senior team competitions into actionable insights for the development of elite youth teams. Looking at trends in the men’s and women’s Champions League, “these articles can be used as a driver for the development of footballers across Europe.” UEFA Director of Technical Education and Development Olivier Doglia

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