The roles of the players in midfield for Atletico and Real Madrid are as different as their coaches' styles. And it is not just a matter of genetics Vs genetics.
Atletico's four starting midfielders will be 4 central midfielders who share similar areas on a flat four line. Saul, Tiago or Augusto, Gabi and Koke. They all give a generous effort on the pitch, cover each other and stay in their zones when the wingbacks (Juanfran and Filipe) go forward. Simeone's team have the character and disposition of an Italian side when defending and when they are in attack. The team is not a counterattacking one. Their transitions are fast because of those 4 midfield players whho can make balls get forward in two or three passes and because of the guys playing up front (Torres, Griezmann or Carrasco) who have the speed to create chances and score.
But their main focus is effectiveness rather than counterattacking. They now will have few opportunities therefore, they need to be successful.
Gabi is the current captain and El Cholo's (Diego Simeone) old teammate. He left the club as a promising but average player returning as a grown man and a leader. Next to him is Tiago, a veteran Portuguese who went to Chelsea, just to come back 6 months later with the experience and leadership of a veteran.
Augusto Fernandez is a young Argentinian player who came in from Celta Vigo during the transfer window but has played in for the injured Tiago.
Koke is the most coveted player of them all. Moved to the left side of the field, the right-footed midfielder has full vision of the pitch to deploy his very accurate passing game. Once in Barcelona's plans to replace Xavi, he is playing where Arda Turan performed last season. Saúl is another homegrown talent who has taken the right side. A box to box player, who dreams of becoming Atletico's next central midfielder was also linked to the Camp Nou but extended his contract with the Colchoneros.
On Real Madrid's side, Zidane had to make a decision and that was to bench one of his attacking midfield stars to make room for Casemiro the one defensive specialist of the team. The Brazilian central midfielder is able to cover the defensive line as no one in the team. His role is to fight for the ball, get it back and pass it to his teammates.
Tony Kroos has been one of the best midfielders of the season. Removed from his defensive duties, the German right side midfielder can now do what he does better; retain the ball, dictate tempo and distribute the plays. Next to him is Croatian playmaker Luka Modric, a fantastic passer who is the link between defense and attack. He also benefits from Casemiro's dirty job, and now has more energy to be the architect of the team. Between him and fullback Marcelo, Real creates a lot of chances.
There are two players who have seen their minutes reduced this season. Spanish international Isco and James Rodríguez, the best of the pair. Isco came from Malaga and is the crowd favorite, but his game lacks the consistency to be a regular on this team. He surely provides quality playing time when coming on the pitch, but not on a regular basis. His decisions are suspicious.
The Colombian on the other side has suffered some nagging injuries that have limited his action. A very talented player, with great vision and a strong shooting, James should be Real Madrid's playmaker for many years to come but doesn't look likely he will stay at the club. After playing in Brazil 2014, the most talented player of the group perhaps hasn't secured a spot with Los Blancos.