It was a week of clashes between archenemies and homecomings in both the Champions League and Europa League. Two games, Barcelona-Atletico Madrid and Borussia Dortmund-Liverpool were the most interesting ones in my opinion. The former was the concrete form of a long-lasting clash between neo-total football and traditional counter-attacking, and the latter was to determine whether Jurgen Klopp or his former students knew the counter-pressing strategy better. The results were pretty decisive and both Barcelona and Jurgen Klopp showed us again why insisting on a rational, modern long term plan is always more beneficial than shortcuts.
First of all, Diego Simeone, the coach of Atletico Madrid, is destined to follow Barcelona, always one step behind given that he is afraid of them and he wholeheartedly cedes control to them. He is afraid because he knows Barcelona will always press in their opponent's half, which makes build-ups hard, and dominate the game when they intercept the ball. Thus, seeing as Atletico have developed a counter-attacking approach over the recent years under Diego Siemone, it is normal that they cannot dare to play with the ball and be proactive against Barcelona. The only thing they can do, as we observed when Diego Torres scored Atletico's only goal, is to push Barcelona to make passes in narrow spaces, which can lead to interceptions and then quick counters. This, however, is not repeatable on rational terms and therefore not enough to beat an organized, productive team consistently.
Barcelona, on the other hand, enjoyed the fact that they were the side who exercised the fundamental truths more and got away with the win. Nonetheless, their productivity has decreased significantly after Pep Guardiola left the club, and they are becoming more dependent on individual talent to beat strict defenses. The reason why Barca cannot produce as much as they used to do is basically they are less patient and less confident about their game. Under Guardiola, the team used to trust the talent of their game, rather than the talented players themselves. But now, in any case of panic and desperation, they immediately opt for the talented feet of Leo Messi, Neymar or Luis Suarez. Nevertheless, it is much easier for an opponent to stop three talented players than prevent an organized team with all its players involved.
The same criticisms hold for Liverpool and Dortmund too. Although both teams were relatively organized and did not opt for chaos whenever they needed a Plan B, the game was far from what their true potential could have exemplified. Jurgen Klopp's team showed us why counter-pressing is different to traditional counter-attacking and they managed to interrupt Dortmund's game from the very beginning. But the reason why they could not hit the knockout blow in the Westfalenstadion was their lack of preparation around what they would do when they intercept the ball. If they had a decent plan about the offensive structure, they could have returned to England with the following round in their pocket.