Before Tuesday night’s game, Diego Simeone gave the customary press conference to preview Atlético Madrid’s Champions League tilt against Bayern Munich. Unlike Atlético’s last trip to Munich, this match was not overwhelmingly important, as Group D had already been decided, first place assured and the only things up for grabs were a perfect group stage for Atleti and a chance to hand Bayern its first home loss in nearly 1,000 days.
As we know, Simeone is what one may call an intense man. He often speaks of his desire to take games to where Atlético want them to be and win games at all costs. But in this press conference, El Cholo discussed playing for pride rather than playing for points, laying the groundwork for how this match would be played.
So somewhat predictably, this game was of rather low quality. Robert Lewandowski scored the game’s only goal on a free kick half an hour in and Bayern maintained 80% possession for much of the game, passing the ball around and basically waiting for the 90 minutes to end. A somewhat-rotated Atlético defended pretty well but rarely threatened, registering little possession and a third of Bayern’s shots. No perfect group stage - something only five teams have accomplished (none went on to win the competition) - and no win in Munich. Neither was deserved, really.
This result, combined with Saturday’s goalless draw versus Espanyol, has supporters worried. Simeone is still playing too defensive. Antoine Griezmann is badly out of form. Diego Godín does not have a reliable center back partner at the moment. All of these are indeed real problems at Atlético, and this doesn't resemble much at all the team that carried an unbeaten run into mid-October.
However, I think this game was an aberration and should be viewed as such. This had to be played because it was on the fixture list. Simeone started only one natural forward and three new defenders came into the team. The intensity level was low on both sides, one was just lucky enough to have Lewandowski. Cholo’s substitutes - including 20-plus minutes for Thomas Partey - also showed that thoughts were really (for better or worse) geared toward Monday’s game away at Villarreal.
It was a disappointing affair that could have gone better (we've all had those), but Atlético’s loss to Bayern on Tuesday isn’t quite the referendum on the team’s chances at silverware that some may believe it is. Atleti are hardly out of first gear right now, and that of course needs to be corrected. A boring 1-0 loss from a set piece in a meaningless game in Munich isn't so catastrophic.