Film Focus: Diego Godin, Miranda Central to Atletico Madrid's Hopes of Success

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Film Focus: Diego Godin, Miranda Central to Atletico Madrid's Hopes of Success
Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Has there been a better central-defensive partnership in Europe this season than Atletico Madrid's Diego Godin and Miranda? If there has, the Rojiblancos pair are certainly not far from that level.

Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois justifiably gets much praise for his performances on loan with Atleti, but he owes a considerable debt of gratitude to the solid wall ahead of him.

Atletico conceded just 26 goals in 38 league matches this campaign while also giving up just three goals in six Champions League knockout fixtures. They are remarkably impressive statistics.

The pair have started nine of the club's 12 Champions League ties together this season, a competition in which Miranda has yet to miss a minute. Both have, at times in their careers, been tipped for the top, but neither has ever been ranked among the best centre-backs in world football.

That is, until now.

At 28 and 29, respectively, Godin and Miranda are in their prime and have struck up a well-oiled partnership at the heart of Diego Simeone's preferred defence. Atletico have stunned the European order this season and, while the headlines will once more go to the attacking players, nobody has been more important to that success than the South American defensive duo.

What is already a great season, though, could soon become the stuff of legend. On Saturday evening, Atletico take on fierce rivals Real Madrid in Lisbon with the 2013-14 Champions League title at stake. Seal that title for the first time, while denying Real the 10th triumph of their history, and that is what awaits.

If that is to be achieved, the defensive duo will need to be at the very top of their games to resist the inevitable attacking avalanche that will come from their rivals. With Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Angel di Maria all in attacking roles, there are few sides who come close to Real for brute force in attack.

Atletico's defensive effort is very much an 11-man affair, with the side pressing high up the pitch with incessant work rate. While neither Miranda nor Godin are particularly quick, the approach requires them to play a high line and rely on their intelligence in positioning.

Sky Sports images, B/R annotations

The presence of Gabi and Tiago in midfield is a major help to the pair. They can man-mark opponents and, if needed, allow space to open up between them, safe in the knowledge that one of the side's midfielders will fill in.

Sky Sports images, B/R annotations
Sky Sports images, B/R annotations

Against Real, who will look to evade the high press and hit Atletico quickly on the counter, that could be important. Miranda and Godin will need to follow the runs of their opponents as they burst forward into the channels, making the diligence of those ahead of them important.

Atletico are proactive in their defending, rather than retreating to central areas. Once the initial attack has then been stemmed, the side retreat into compact lines of four and concede space in wide areas.

Sky Sports images, B/R annotations

From crosses, the duo are relentless in their attacking of the ball. Godin is the more aggressive of the pair, while Miranda is more intelligent regarding positioning and anticipation. The former, meanwhile, is more vocal.

All good partnerships are based upon balance and, in their current setup, Godin and Miranda are as well-balanced a pairing as any in Europe. Between them, they have consistently proved capable of thwarting the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Chelsea.

They are aggressive, as is the side overall, but the entire setup has been planned to the finest detail.

Squawka
Squawka

Real will throw all their might at Atletico and, for all the Rojiblancos' own ability, that will mean they must be on the lookout throughout. Diego Simeone's side are capable of winning the title, just as they have done domestically.

If they do, they will be heavily indebted to the pair of South Americans who have consistently laid the foundations for success.

They will once more be unlikely to claim the headlines but have done enough this season to ensure that they are now regarded with the utmost respect. Whether Simeone can now retain both for next season, though, remains to be seen.

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