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Darren – Ultimate European Challenge, At Madrid’s tightest of titles 14/15

Hey folks and welcome to my Ultimate European Challenge season finale. During my last post Atletico Madrid closed the gap on top spot to 5 points. Considering I took over the club in 9th place and 13 points off top, I think we’ve come a long way. With some very winnable fixtures to play, I was feeling surprisingly upbeat about our title chances. I also had the Champions League quarter-final and Spanish Cup final to plan for. With a lot to play for lets see how my boys fared. We’ll start with the Spanish Cup final against arch rivals Barcelona.

Spanish Cup final – Atletico Madrid vs Barcelona

Using my 4-5-1 and a counter strategy paid off big time here. We used a deep defensive line, narrow width and slow tempo. This combination stopped Barcelona playing and helped my side control the game through swift counter attacks. Aguero was having a great season so far, but this performance just topped everything prior to it. Barcelona threatened a few times, but never looked capable of working my goalkeeper.

I was worried to see Messi injured due to his Argentina duties and an important Copa America coming up. However, he suffered no sideline time and carried on during the next game as normal. This victory was just incredible and although it was always possible, I was relieved to hear the final whistle. The first trophy required in Spain was attained.

La Liga results – the title decider.

All season I have been saying, ‘win every game and the title is possible’. My philosophy has paid off so far and served me well. Both games away from home to Valencia and Hercules were tough, but my boys came up trumps. We then won a title turning game against Barca 2-1. This result was a six pointer and took me within a point of the champions. After winning the next game 3-0, we slipped up against Malaga and drew 1-1. This gave Real Madrid a chance to play catch up and the title race was getting spicy. My next two games were easy as we beat Las Palmas 5-0 and Osasuna 3-1. With only two games to go, the table looked like this.

Holding a one point advantage at the top was Atletico Madrid. While Real trailed in second and Barcelona had slipped to third, but just three points off top. Goal difference was looking very important at this stage and mine is by far the worst. I had a potential banana skin at home to Zaragoza, while Barcelona travelled to Valencia and Real Madrid played relegation bound Mallorca.

Barcelona and Real Madrid made their ties look easy. However, my boys made some real hard work of a weak opponent. I was starting to fear for my squads motivation, there was no urgency or commitment during this game. After conceding an early goal it was down to Aguero to revive us again.

No change in the top three and it seemed like I would need 92 points to secure the title. I just couldn’t see Barcelona screwing up against Almeria and like wise Real Madrid against Getafe. I had to beat Mallorca away from home to make sure. I opted for my trusted 4-5-1 and a counter strategy. Below are the highlights, could I pull off the biggest turn around of my career. I joined At Madrid during November already 13 points off the title, a Champions League place was all we expected. Then three great signings turned our fortunes around and has seen us unbeatable. Lets watch the conclusion with fingers and toes crossed. :)

Haha, what a performance. Probably the best I’ve seen under such pressure. We took the lead early and that seemed to calm the nerves. Set pieces were the order of the day and just speak volumes for Vella’s ability. The Argentine was at the heart of 5 goals during this match. He dominated Mallorca and was to thank for such an easy victory.

Alexis Sanchez picked the perfect time to pull out an excellent performance. Every single player was exceptional, however there was a down side. Dzagoev picked up a nasty injury and will be out for 4 months…to be honest I was so happy with the result I didn’t even think about this until later.

La Liga end of season standings

Real Madrid and Barcelona are near impossible to fend off. I have never known two sides dominate so much, you really can’t afford a poor run in this league. To finish the season with 92 points and still only be 3 points above third is crazy.

Well the Spanish part of my challenge is officially complete. However, I won’t move unless a good offer comes in. I think I’ll start the season with intentions to stay in Madrid. I am delighted to win the double so quickly and the fans seem to share my enthusiasm. Though the post isn’t quite finished as we’ve yet to see what happened in the Champions League.

Champions League results starting in quarter-final

My quarter-final opponents were Liverpool. Struggling from the loss of Torres and an ageing Gerrard, I was feeling confident. Remember all my January signings are cup tied and therefore ineligible for this competition. Both wingers Sanchez and Vella would be dearly missed and so would the rock Cicinho. Liverpool also had their troubles and couldn’t hold the 20 year Stien back. He played a big part as we won 4-1 on aggregate.

The semi-final pitted my boys against a very strong Lyon. Tafer has developed well alongside a now world class Pjanic. Add Gourcuff, Bastos and Lopez and it makes for a tough tie. My season long hero Aguero showed who had the true class though. My striker scored three goals and guided Atletico Madrid to a 4-2 aggregate victory. My prediction of a Champions League final had come true, but Real Madrid stood in my way. After Dzagoev’s injury in the last game of this season, he was out of the final. A huge loss as I now missed, Dzagoev, Vella, Sanchez and Cicinho who are the star players. Guess it’s all down to Aguero. :)

Champions League final – Atletico Madrid vs Real Madrid

Not sure if my title victory has a negative effect, but every player was shocking during the final. Every pass was misplaced and Aguero seemed to be marked by the entire Real back four. A very bad performance that left me wondering if the FM gods had this planned all along or if I screwed up. Was it the tactics, the team talk or just a lack of star players through injuries and cup ties? Either way the better side won and my treble dream ended.

The winning goal was due to bad defending and complacency. Maybe some tired minds had an effect here too. I was disappointed to come so close and lose because of one bad performance. However, it has been an incredible season, with success beyond my expectations.

Squad stats

Vella gained the best average rating thanks to 5 goals and 20 assists. Remember he only played half a season after joining in January. Plus he wasn’t able to take part in the Champions League. I just love that regen! Aguero has also become one of my favourites after scoring 39 goals. My corners provided a lot of goals, Dominguez, Bassong and Toprak scored 25 goals between them from set pieces. Sanchez came into form near the end with 6 goals and 5 assists. While Dzagoev was crucial scoring 8 goals and assisting 19.

Well Atletico Madrid’s season is over and it’s been a real roller coaster with a happy ending. However, my season is still going as I have to guide Argentina through the Copa America. This is my first International competition and I couldn’t have a better side to enter it with. My next two posts will be based on this competition. Rather than the usual updates I will write about my experience if though it were real. All from the media’s point of view. Until then thanks for reading and I look forward to your comments as always. :)

If you want to join us all in the Ultimate European Challenge, please follow the link and read the rules. Its very simple and should get us all into different cultures and styles of Football.

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CsAtlantis
CsAtlantis
10 years ago

Oh dear Darren, too bad your new signings were cup tied, they could have made the difference!
At least you’ve completed the domestic part for Spain by winning the cup and the league with a miraculous turnaround (from 13 pts behind!)

Shouldn’t be too hard to win the Copa America, Brazil could be your toughest challengers (though Chile probably could be dangerous with Sanchez!)

Darren Smith
10 years ago
Reply to  CsAtlantis

Thanks CsAtlantis, the cup tied players were a huge loss but I am delighted with the Spanish double.

I reckon the Copa America should be won, however, these International comps always turn up a surprise. We just need to avoid complacency really. :)

Johnny Karp
10 years ago

Fantastic stuff mate, you pulled off a miracle there! Aguero is simply great and I think that he might be my first big-name signing at Vauxhall as soon as we get our hands on large sums of money :) About the Champions League final, I think that you mustn’t blame yourself or anyone else, such a game can go either way and this time it went the wrong way. I’m sure you’ll nail that treble next season though :)

Darren Smith
10 years ago
Reply to  Johnny Karp

Cheers Johnny, it was a great season and I couldn’t of done much more. Just relieved to see Barcelona drop enough points. It would be incredible to see Aguero at Vauxhall and I for one will be chasing the striker whenever I can. He’s been my best forward on FM 2011 by miles.

I think you’re right about the Champions League, with the lack of first team players and such a strong opponent we couldn’t expect too much. Next season we’ll be stronger than ever and I think the treble has to be realistic now. :)

Wazz
Wazz
10 years ago

Oh, Darren, how much I hate you. =P
You’ve won the La Liga! Great achievement.. Too bad you lost the Champions League to Madrid though. Those two Argentenians really really helped your team there. Amazing regen!
Looking forward for your next post.

Darren Smith
10 years ago
Reply to  Wazz

I love you too Wazz lol :)

The domestic competitions were nothing short of pure class…my players did all the work really and left me to barely tweak the tactics. :) You’ve gotta love Aguero, but Vella is by far my favourite regen of all time…he is just exceptional, I’m sure he can provide even more during the Copa America.

Laxeyman
Laxeyman
10 years ago

Brilliant Darren, you’re a miracle worker! What a turnaround in Atletico’s fortunes and you were unfortunate not to get the Champions League as well. Vella the regen is incredible, almost an assist per game, as is Aguero. I’m sure you’ll have a great chance in the Champions League next year, and Argentina will go far in the Copa America. Good luck mate :)

Darren Smith
10 years ago
Reply to  Laxeyman

Cheers Laxeyman, the title really did feel like a miracle as I needed Barcelona to drop points as well as Real. Like I’ve said, Vella is my favourite regen of all time…I just hope he follows me to my next club whenever that may be. Lets hope there aren’t any upsets on the Copa America as Argentina must be solid favourites. :)

ryanlynch
ryanlynch
10 years ago

weldone, fantastic season, any chance u cud tell us ur corner settings ? :L

Darren Smith
10 years ago
Reply to  ryanlynch

Thanks Ryan!

My corner settings are extremely simple. I leave everything as default except the below pointers.
1- Change the aim of my corners to ‘far post’
2- Set my best headerer of the ball to ‘attack the far post’
3- I also have my other centre back set to ‘mark keeper’

The most important thing is who takes the corners though…I use someone with great crossing and corner ability, while the player who attacks the far post has great heading and jumping ability.

Sayam Khan
Sayam Khan
10 years ago

Great season Darren, it was certainy getting very tense for me at the end of them league games! Unlucky about the CL loss, but nevertheless great season!

And id like to know your corner settings also. You seem to score a lot from them.

Darren Smith
10 years ago
Reply to  Sayam Khan

Thanks Sayam, the season was tense for me too near the end. That game against Zaragoza almost gave me a heart attack as we could have drawn. :)

My corner settings are extremely simple. I leave everything as default except the below pointers.
1- Change the aim of my corners to ‘far post’
2- Set my best headerer of the ball to ‘attack the far post’
3- I also have my other centre back set to ‘mark keeper’

The most important thing is who takes the corners though…I use someone with great crossing and corner ability, while the player who attacks the far post has great heading and jumping ability.

Sears
10 years ago

Seriously, this game is way to easy for you mate!! I’m gonna try think of some impossible challenge that you’ll find very difficult to overcome :-D Only the greatest of managers could overturn a 13 point deficit and win the title, especially when considering that Barcelona are the leading team. Unbelievable!!! You are by far the best manager I’ve ever seen!

Darren Smith
10 years ago
Reply to  Sears

Your too kind Sears. :) I must admit I was surprised by our form and a helping from Barcelona. The truth is Aguero and Vella did all the work…I didn’t find myself changing things too much as they played well every game and made the difference. Lets hope the success can continue. I’m enjoying this challenge and think I’ll continue the game upto 2020 or so. :)

Cam
Cam
10 years ago

im conceding way too many with this tactic

Darren Smith
10 years ago
Reply to  Cam

Sorry to hear that Cam. Like I’ve mentioned before team talks are also a big part of tactics and also making sure your players fit the style and roles assigned to them. I have found that pacey centre backs do better in this formation. Are your centre backs and wingers slow? This could maybe be the problem. Or maybe it just doesn’t suit your style of play on FM. Let me know if I can help at all. :)

Liam
Liam
10 years ago

Hi, this tactic is just not working. My line up is

Reina

Johnson Skrtel Agger Wilson

Meireles Gerrard/Lucas Hamsik/Parejo

Kuyt/Gerrard Babel

Torres / Dzeko / Kadlec

Im conceding loads and not scoring like you seem to do darren.

Any suggestions. Sorry for writing an essay

Darren Smith
10 years ago
Reply to  Liam

Its tough to narrow down the problem really, but I would suggest making sure each players attributes work for the role their in. Also, I would use a standard strategy at home and in the easier away games, but counter against tough opponents or away from home. A slightly high defensive line, slightly narrow width and slightly slow tempo works well for me, but always check your pre-match advice to see if you should change this or use a different formation. If you are already doing the above maybe try team talks such as ‘do it for the fans’ when your favourite to win and ‘you can win this’ when your the underdogs. Also make sure someone like Gerrard is set as the playmaker and the striker as your teams target man with ‘run onto ball’ aim for Torres and Kadlec. I would also give Gerrard as free a role as possible, unleash him to make magic. Maybe go into the player instructions for Meireles as well and change his ‘long shots’ to ‘often’. Other than that I’m not sure but hope some of this helps. :)

kevin
kevin
10 years ago

Hi Darren
I have to say I gotta agree with Sears in so much that you have totally out-smarted this game. coming from behind in the standings to beat both Madrid and Barca is simply epic and to go and win the Spanish cup as well leaves me speechless. Too bad though on missing out on the treble but still an incredible season.
Looking forward to how you will be presenting your Argentina update.

Darren Smith
10 years ago
Reply to  kevin

Thanks Kevin, it was a great feeling to come from behind in such a tough league. The Copa America should be fun and I’m only really expecting competition from Brazil. :)

Lye
Lye
10 years ago

Hi Darren,

Echoing Seats and Kevin, you seem to win everything in any league you go. Congratulations on securing the double. To overcome Barcelona and Real Madrid is a tough task but you managed it in your first season. Well done. The foundation is there and next season you will be dominating Spain and Europe. Good luck.

Darren Smith
10 years ago
Reply to  Lye

Thanks Lye, I really like At Madrid and Spain is a bigger challenge than the other leagues I’ve managed in. Lets hope next season will see a repeat. :)

Birdy
10 years ago

Hey Darren

awesome work and keep it up good luck for the next season i can see you doing well again

Darren Smith
10 years ago
Reply to  Birdy

Cheers Birdy, I hope you’re right.

Harv
Harv
10 years ago

Hi Darren,

Congratulations on a great season for athletico. I just wanted to say that I am also managing them and I think your tactic is very well thought out but its just not working for me. Do you have any suggestions?

Darren Smith
10 years ago
Reply to  Harv

Hi Harv, At Madrid are a good side to manage. I was lucky in that the players seemed to adapt well to my 4-5-1. However, I did have worries that Spain would be the one country my tactic wouldn’t work in so I can see why you may struggle. It depends on your squad as to who you should play, but I have a feeling that pushing the central midfielder of the three up to attacking or down to defensive may help. Using him as a deep playmaker or advanced playmaker may add that bit of creativity you need. Only problem is you need some one who suits the role and it is a tough formation to get right. Let me know if you have anymore questions.

My other advice would be to get an amazing right and left winger as they make the difference in this formation I use. :)

Harv
Harv
10 years ago

Thanks Dan and I’ll try your suggestions out. Could you recommend a good winger? Might not be able to get alexis sanchez as he has gone to sunderland of all clubs :D

Harv
Harv
10 years ago

Also, I use Hamsik in a central midfield position but wouldn’t pushing him up exploit the middle and make it a little more vulnerable? And sorry for calling you Dan, I got mixed up with someone else. :)

Harv
Harv
10 years ago

Darren?

Darren Smith
10 years ago
Reply to  Harv

Sorry for the delayed reply Harv, I’ve been at work and just got back. I’ll answer your second question first. Moving Hamsik forward would leave the midfield less staffed but then again you would still have two players to use as defending and supporting central midfielders. Every formation has pros and cons so its about weighing up whether you want to really attack or be cautious I guess. As for a good winger I would recommend Gaitan from Benfica, he’s excellent. Hope this helps a little. :)

ps don’t worry about mixing up the name mate

Harv
Harv
10 years ago

thanks dan, ive tried what you said and it has paid off. Amazingly, I signed Mesut Ozil as he was unhappy at real madrid and Navas from sevilla. I know I was shocked too :D My only other problem is that my team is very complacent against the weaker teams in the league

Darren Smith
10 years ago
Reply to  Harv

Good to hear your form has improved mate, Ozil is incredible and Navas is a great signing too. When playing against some weaker opponents maybe try using a counter strategy. Its risky but may draw the opposition onto you leaving spaces for you to attack in. Like I said its risky but may be worth a try. :)

Kye
Kye
10 years ago

why pay for players when you can jus add a new user bid £0 and accept it as the other manager?

Darren Smith
10 years ago
Reply to  Kye

Hey Kye, some players may get a kick out of bringing in all the best players this way but I’d get bored. There would be no challenge and this would make the game a little boring in the long run. I like playing the game as if it were real life. I spend hours pouring over tactics and players to build my side, this is just the most enjoyable way to play the game for me.

Harv
Harv
10 years ago

cause thats cheating mate

Harv
Harv
10 years ago

Yeah kye, I used to do that but felt like I was jus cheating myself in the end

Ana Garcia
Ana Garcia
10 years ago

A bit late but congratulations!

Off course I would like to see Barca dominate the league! But its a great achievement to win it with Atletico but it was really close!

Bad luck on the champions league and its even worse that Real Madrid won it! :)

Are you planning on staying in Spain or is a move on the horizon? What ever you have planned good luck!

Darren Smith
10 years ago
Reply to  Ana Garcia

Thanks Ana, though I am sorry you had to see Barcelona finish third. :)

I hate losing to Real Madrid because I have such a good record against them, but my squad was very weak due to injuries and cup ties so the writing was on the wall. I am staying in Spain for another year because its a real challenge and I’ve built a great side at At Madrid. Maybe next season will see me leave.

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