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Opinion: Were you watching Atletico, Niko?

Hallam Mark Kommentarbild App
Mark Hallam
November 7, 2018

Diego Simeone's side rarely looked worried as Dortmund visited Madrid — too disciplined at the back and too dangerous going forward. DW's Mark Hallam believes Niko Kovac must try to emulate it in the Bundesliga.

Champions League 2018 | Atletico Madrid v Borussia Dortmund
Image: Reuters/J. Medina

Bayern Munich are rather fortunate to be playing at home against AEK Athens on Wednesday. Staying in Bavaria should have made it easier for Niko Kovac and his players to watch their league rivals lose their first game of the season. 

Diego Simeone delivered an object lesson in how to simultaneously stifle and overrun Lucien Favre's developing Dortmund squad.

Atletico Madrid looked too strong for their opponents at both ends, especially at the back. They pressed when appropriate, defended in two impenetrable lines of four when under pressure, and weren't afraid to put the boot in when necessary. The results were telling: Dortmund's wide talents Jadon Sancho and Christian Pulisic were both subbed out after largely anonymous showings, Paco Alcacer never had a shot on goal up front. 

Fußball Champions League AEK Athen - Bayern Muenchen | Niko Kovac
Kovac could have learned plenty from Diego Simeone shutting Dortmund down on TuesdayImage: picture-alliance/GES/M. I. Güngör

Perhaps that's the burning question ahead of Saturday evening's massive game in the Bundesliga: Can Bayern's rather pampered squad of superstars deliver the same clenched-teeth commitment that has become the hallmark of Diego Simeone's managerial career? Because if they can, bookmakers in Germany might be scrambling to rethink their odds.

Bayern still have the personnel advantage

Going forward, Bayern can still claim a stronger squad than Dortmund's. There's a reason youngsters like Jadon Sancho, Jacob Bruun Larsen and Pulisic are thriving at Dortmund: there's space, and even a need, for them to emerge in attacking midfield. It's hard to imagine them — especially not all of them — getting such serious game time so early in their careers at the Allianz Arena. 

As Dortmund trains tomorrow's superstars, Atletico and Bayern pay today's. Right from the off on Tuesday, Antoine Griezmann was likely to get either a goal or an assist before the night was done. Ömer Toprak and Manuel Akanji didn't look ready to contain the French firestorm for the full 90. Class told and he duly scored late in the game.

Players like Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Müller should be approaching Saturday with the same mindset. They should look at Dortmund's mixture of inexperience and aging players in defense and see a real chance for goals. Bayern, after all, have netted 13 in their last three league games against BVB. 

Left back Luis Filipe eviscerated 33-year-old Lukasz Piszczek for much of the first half, setting up the opener and almost scoring a pair of his own. There's no reason David Alaba can't attempt something similar.

Seen in the right light, Atletico Madrid just provided Bayern a better morale boost than any thrashing of AEK Athens. Not only did they show that Dortmund can be beaten, they showed that a class team defending as a unit can neuter them almost completely.