In what could be the most crucial game of Group C, Atletico Madrid play their first European game at the Wanda Metropolitano tomorrow night.
Their opponents are English champions Chelsea, who are the early leaders in the group after Atlético could only manage a draw away to Roma, whilst the Blues put the sword to the Azerbaijani champions Qarabag in a 6-0 victory.
The result could go some way to deciding who finishes top of Group C.
Last time out
ATLÉTICO MADRID 2-0 Sevilla [La Liga]
Atlético continued their unbeaten start to their La Liga campaign with a solid 2-0 win over Sevilla at The Comb on Saturday.
Second half goals from Yannick Carrasco and Antoine Griezmann completed a typically solid performance from Diego Simeone’s side who remain in second place in the table.
Sevilla are no pushovers, as Liverpool found out in Week 1 of the group stages, so this result will give Los Rojiblancos faithful confidence of another good result come Wednesday.
Stoke City 0-4 CHELSEA [Premier League]
Also on Saturday, Alvaro Morata scored his first Chelsea hat-trick in what was a fantastic performance by the Blues.
The Spanish striker opened the scoring with barely a minute played and added two more in the second half in a game where Chelsea were on another level.
Also on the scoresheet was Pedro, whose sumptuous strike highlighted the gulf in quality between the sides. Stoke weren’t bad, but Chelsea were lethal, a quality they will need on Wednesday night.
This could’ve been a tricky game for Antonio Conte’s side. Arsenal struggled immensely against the Potters, but the early goal sent them on their way to another win.
Chelsea are now up to third in the table and are hanging onto the Manchester clubs’ coattails, just three points behind.
Atlético Madrid Lineup
Atlético will lineup in their usual 4-4-2 formation with a few changes from their previous game against Sevilla.
Thomas Partey should return to the side to add more pace to the midfield, but don’t be surprised to see Carrasco retain his starting berth, while Juanfran and Diego Godin return to the defence after a rest at the weekend.
Chelsea should play in their now typical 3-4-2-1 formation that won them the Premier League so convincingly last season.
Despite picking up a knock at the Bet365 Stadium at the weekend, Thibaut Courtois has been declared fit to start against his old side.
David Luiz and Gary Cahill return to the backline after a suspension and rest respectively, whilst Eden Hazard should replace Willian in the starting XI.
Key Battle: Morata vs Godin & Savic
Centre-backs Diego Godin and Stefan Savic know all about Alvaro Morata from the forward’s time at Real Madrid.
Atlético arguably have the most solid defence in the world, and how they deal with the big Spaniard will be key to keeping a clean sheet.
Pedro and Hazard will also be a threat going forward, but Chelsea’s main focal point will be Morata and, as we saw on Saturday, when he gets a chance he usually scores.
Morata isn’t particularly quick, but he is a physical player, something I imagine Godin and Savic will relish the challenge of containing.
Going on past form, you’d expect defence to triumph over attack, but Morata seems on a higher level to that he was at Los Blancos.
Chelsea parking the bus again?
Before Antonio Conte took over the reigns at Chelsea last season, there was a running joke about the Stamford Bridge club sitting back and defending for 90 minutes to scrape a 0-0.
That reputation was probably deserved, but under Conte, it hasn’t been the case. Now, though, on the European stage, will Chelsea play for a scoreless game?
It’s doubtful. The Blues have been solid at the back since their new manager took over, but this hasn’t been because of defensive tactics. Chelsea have been able to blow away teams in the Premier League, but Don’t be surprised if Conte is cautious in this game.
After all, Atlético are one of the most difficult teams in Europe to beat, especially on their own turf. A draw would suit them too, as this is probably their hardest game on paper in the group stage. Only time will tell how they set-up come Wednesday.
Atlético getting going in Europe
Atlético faced a tough opening group game against Roma last time out in the Champions League and probably should’ve won, but they could’ve also easily lost the match.
If they’re to have a realistic chance of finishing top of the group, they need to avoid defeat against Chelsea, as closing a five-point gap in four games will be difficult, especially with a game in west London still to come.
Having said that, though, Atlético progressed the last time the two met in European competition back in 2013/14.
Despite only drawing at home in the first leg, Simeone’s men went through to that year’s final after a win away from home in the return leg.
PREDICTION: Atlético 1-1 Chelsea
It’ll be a tight affair with chances at a premium, but with Morata of Chelsea and Griezmann of Atlético in attack for the sides, there will only need to have three or four opportunities in the game for there to be a goal apiece.
Whatever happens, it should be a fascinating tactical battle between two of the best managers in Europe.
Atletico Madrid could contain Chelsea for the whole game and sucker punch them on the counter, but the opposite result could easily happen. A close game is definitely on the cards.
Want to share your opinion? Why not Write For Us?