After racking up a further four goals at the weekend, Conte’s Chelsea now turn their attention to perhaps their toughest test of 2017: A Champions League tie with the unwavering Atletico Madrid. While much of the pre-match pub chatter will concern Diego Costa’s drawn-out return to Atletico, come kick-off fans will be eyeing up the most prestigious club trophy on the planet.
Jason Westall previews the first ever Champions League game at the Wanda Metropolitano.
Thibaut Courtois will be fine to start for Chelsea despite landing awkwardly on his neck during Saturday’s 4-0 win over Stoke. The Belgian goalkeeper will look to keep a clean sheet against the team he spent three seasons on loan at between 2011 and 2014.
“I spoke with our doctor about Thibaut, above all about whether I could make a different substitution and he said Thibaut was okay and you can make another substitution. Now he is okay and ready to play the next game against Atletico Madrid, ” Conte explained.
David Luiz is a doubt with a wrist injury but could make a return after serving the first of his three-game domestic suspension.
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) September 26, 2017
Ex-Foxes’ midfielder Danny Drinkwater is out with a hamstring problem until late October.
For Atletico, Augusto Hernandez is back in training but looks doubtful to make Wednesday’s squad.
32-year-old Brazilian Filipe Luis will lock horns with the side who signed him for £16m in 2014. Luis made only nine Premier League starts in Chelsea’s 2014-15 title-winning season under Mourinho.
Atletico starting XI: Oblak; Juanfran, Savic, Godin, Luis; Niguez, Gabi, Partley, Koke; Griezmann, Vietto
Chelsea starting XI: Courtois; Azpilicueta, Luiz, Cahill; Moses, Bakayoko, Kante, Alonso; Hazard, Morata, Pedro
After opening their campaign with a shock draw against La Liga minnows Girona, Atletico Madrid have quickly summoned the rocklike form we’ve been accustomed to in recent years. The sturdy Spaniards are unbeaten in seven games and have only conceded four times in the process – two goals defying their defence in their first game of the season. They’ve picked up valuable points away from home at Roma and Valencia, too.
But, if we’ve learnt anything from Chelsea over recent seasons, it’s that they can shake the ‘unshakable’. With one UEFA Champions League, two UEFA Cup Winners’ Cups, one UEFA Europa League and one UEFA Super Cup under their belt, Conte’s side will be looking to write their name into footballing folklore once again. They’ve won six of their last seven in all competitions; the only blot on their copybook being the goalless draw against Arsenal a week gone Sunday.
Chelsea may have five Premier League titles and a host of European silverware in their trophy cabinet at Stamford Bridge but they haven’t faired well against Simeone’s side in recent times.
The veritable tactician has gotten the better of Roberto di Matteo and Jose Mourinho in the past — defeating Chelsea twice in the last four games played in all competitions — and will be looking to add Conte to his hit list.
Chelsea haven’t beaten Atletico since they battered them 4-0 at the Bridge during the 2009-10 Champions League group stages.
Last 5 meetings:
|30/04/2014||UEFA Champions League 2013/2014||Chelsea||1||3||Atletico|
|22/04/2014||UEFA Champions League 2013/2014||Atletico||0||0||Chelsea|
|31/08/2012||UEFA Super Cup 2012/2013||Chelsea||1||4||Atletico|
|03/11/2009||UEFA Champions League 2009/2010||Atletico||2||2||Chelsea|
|21/10/2009||UEFA Champions League 2009/2010||Chelsea||4||0||Atletico|
The return group game finished 2-2 in Madrid and when they next met, in the 2012 European Super Cup, Atletico won 4-1 in Monaco with a hat-trick from Radamel Falcao.
The sides’ most recent meeting came in the 2014/2015 Champions League semi-final where, after a stalemate at the Vicente Calderon, Atletico beat the Londoners 1-3 on their home turf. Still, the La Liga side did not taste European glory, and went on to lose against their bitter neighbours, Real Madrid, in the final.
Who’s played for both teams?
- Diego Costa (Chelsea 2014-17; Atletico Madrid 2010-14 & 2017-present)
- Thibault Courtois (Chelsea 2011-present; Atletico Madrid 2011-14 loan)
- Radamel Falcao (Chelsea 2015-16 loan; Atletico Madrid 2011-13)
- Jesper Gronkjaer (Chelsea 200-04; Atletico Madrid 2005)
- Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink (Chelsea 2000-04; Atletico Madrid 1999-2000)
- Mateja Kezman (Chelsea 2004-05; Atletico Madrid 2005-06)
- Filipe Luis (Chelsea 2014-15; Atletico Madrid 2010-14 & 2015-present)
- Maniche (Chelsea 2006 loan; Atletico Madrid 2006-09)
- Tiago Mendes (Chelsea 2004-05; Atletico Madrid 2010-11 loan & 2011-17)
- Fernando Torres (Chelsea 2011-15; Atletico Madrid 2001-2007, 2015-16 loan & 2016-present)
- Atletico Madrid are unbeaten in their past four competitive games against Chelsea (W2 D2).
- Under Simeone, Atletico Madrid have won 18 of their 23 Champions League home matches.
- Chelsea are unbeaten in their past nine Champions League away games against Spanish opposition (W2 D7), drawing the past five.
- The Blues have reached the knockout stages of the Champions League 13 times in their previous 14 appearances.
- Chelsea have lost only one of their past 14 Champions League group games.
- This will be Simeone’s 50th match as manager in the Champions League. His teams have conceded an average of 0.65 goals per game, the best ratio among managers with 20 or more games in the competition.
— Atlético de Madrid (@AtletiFR) September 26, 2017
Neither team can really afford to lose this game, not with Roma developing under Eusebio Di Francesco. As such, I expect Diego Simeone to play his familiar 4-4-2 shape – much to the discomfort of Conte’s side – and create a narrow shape down the centre. This will make Atletico compact and tough to break down, leaving Koke and Saul Niguez to break in the wide roles. They will also look to double up on Chelsea’s wingbacks when they get possession.
Chelsea, on the other hand, will rely on creative players like Hazard and Pedro to weave in and out of Atletico’s cracks, slipping balls through to in-form Morata. I expect Chelsea to be forced out wide due to Atletico’s robust midfield, forcing the Londoners’ wingbacks to whip in balls from range. However, with Godin and Savic leading the backline, I expect Atletico to nullify any aerial threat.
As much as I hate to say it, I think history will repeat itself for a third time in six games and the two sides will draw. Paddy Power are offering generous odds of 21/10.
1-1 also seems like a sensible correct score bet at 5/1.