Atletico Madrid have received praise from Sam Allardyce, who is a huge admirer of their remarkable defensive solidity under Diego Simeone.
Atleti have conceded just 16 goals in 35 La Liga games this season and won 1-0 in the first-leg of their Champions League semi-final with Bayern Munich on Wednesday, despite having only having 26 per cent possession.
Sunderland have ground out results in recent weeks – losing just one of their past seven to boost their hopes of Premier League survival – and Allardyce paid tribute to Atletico and Simeone’s tactics.
“The more goals you concede
ultimately results in the bottom three, not the more goals you score,” he said.
“Everybody goes on about goals, goals and more goals but if you want the perfect example, you take Atletico Madrid, who have a superbly drilled team which is a breath of fresh air today.
“Defending is an art, everybody has forgotten it. I coach defending an awful lot but I don’t think too many teams in the Premier League or in the world of football actually coach defending anymore, certainly not the full-backs.
“Seeing Atletico Madrid beat Bayern Munich last night, how they played and how they defended what they had against one of the favourites to win the Champions League was a joy to watch.
“Defending is an art – everybody has forgotten it – it’s a tactical art to be able to sense danger and block crosses and get your toe in without fouling and they are very, very good at it.”
Allardyce is no stranger to Atletico’s Fernando Torres, having been in the opposition dugout when the striker played for Liverpool and Chelsea.
And the Sunderland boss hailed Simeone for the way he has reinvigorated the 32-year-old’s stuttering career.
Allardyce said: “The whole Atletico team buys into it – you see Fernando Torres on the edge of his own box defending. You never saw that at Liverpool or Chelsea.
“That’s how good the manager is and that’s why they are successful.
“They are successful because they concede fewer goals than anyone else and usually only need one goal to win a match.
“Everyone can say ‘that’s not entertaining’ but everybody is eulogising Simeone’s tactics now.”