Diego Simeone
Atletico Madrid's coach Diego "Cholo" Simeone reacts during their Champions League group A soccer match against Juventus at Vicente Calderon stadium in Madrid October 1, 2014. REUTERS/Sergio Perez

Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simone, returned to the pitch on Wednesday after serving an eight game suspension for touching a referee official’s face. Led by Simeone, The Atleti won their second Champions League game of the season, 1-0 over Juventus.

Juventus is one of the better teams in Europe and was favored heavily in the match against Atletico Madrid. Simeone knew it would be a tough, tactical battle for his team, and what better return to the pitch, than a stunning defeat over Juventus? After losing to Olympiakos 3-2, in their first UEFA match without Simeone, the Argentine manager implemented a new formation to defeat the Italian squad.

Simeone implemented a 4-1-4-1 to attack Juventus’ 3-5-2 formation. Simeone knew that the change in formation would mean that Juventus would dominate possession of the ball for most of the game, but that the defensive minded strategy would ensure that there was no space for their opponent to maneuver in. True to form, Juventus dominated time of possession owning the ball over 68% of the time.

Simeone’s substitutions were also magnificent as he understood when his players were tired, when he needed to attack, and when he needed to shore up his defense. Simeone made his first substitution just after the start of the second half of play. He took out the hardworking Saul for the more attacking Atoine Griezmann. In addition to the substitution, Simeone quickly changed the formation to the more customary 4-4-2 and told his team to push the ball and attack on the now tired Juventus defenders.

The move worked as Arda Turan scored the game’s only goal in the 74th minute. The goal stunned Juventus and Simeone tried to take further advantage of his Italian opponents body language has he inserted defensive-minded Mario Suarez and Guillherme Siqueira. Atletico held on to the victory proving once again, that coaching can defeat talent on the pitch.

“He’s like a god for us. He arrived and he changed everything,” midfielder, Tiago Mendes said. “What he says to us comes true. We follow him, so if he asks us to go and jump from the bridge, we jump.”

Simeone has made a complete turnaround on Atletico Madrid, the once paltry franchise has quickly risen under the watchful eye of the passionate Argentinean coach into one of the best clubs in all of Europe. He won the Spanish League last season, the Spanish Super Cup earlier this year, and was a last minute goal in stoppage time away from winning the Champions League title against Real Madrid earlier in May.

Diego Simone
Atletico Madrid's coach Diego Simeone (2ndL) complains to the referee about adding an extra minute after the end of the first half of the extra time during their Champions League final soccer match against Real Madrid at the Luz Stadium in Lisbon May 24, 2014. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

“I found a group of players that has allowed me and my coaching staff to improve,” said Simeone. “The most difficult thing you can do as a coach or player is to transmit what you hope to achieve to your players. We’ve managed to do that.”

Simeone’s bond and chemistry with his players is crystal clear. Not only do they respect each other, they believe in each other and he has managed to lift them up and allow them to find their maximum potential.

“Whether people like him or not, he made us winners,” said Gabi. “He instilled belief in us, that we can win, and he has made us better.”

Simeone’s message of teamwork, unity and humility has hit home. It is embodied by their coach and instilled into their players on the pitch. SImeone believes there is no team in the world that Atletico Madrid can’t beat and it is that confidence that allowed him to defeat Real Madrid in Bernabeau last year for the first time in 14 years.

With the win over Juventus, Atletico Madrid has now defeated five former Champions League winners under Simeone; Porto, Milan, Barcelona, Chelsea and Juventus. All five clubs have fallen at the stroke of Simeone’s sword in the past twelve months. The sky’s the limit for Atletico with Simeone on the sidelines, as he is the x-factor and the difference maker.

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