5 talking points ahead of Atletico Madrid v Chelsea

We preview tonight’s Champions League clash.

Mourinho and Simeone will go head to head this evening.
Mourinho and Simeone will go head to head this evening.
Image: Andres Kudacki/AP/Press Association Images

You’re only as strong as your weakest link

IF HE STARTS  on the left side of the Chelsea defence, it’s very likely that Diego Simeone will instruct either Koke or Raúl Garcia to attack César Azpilicueta almost every time they get the ball.

For inspiration, they need look no further than Sunderland who persistently used Jozy Altidore to harangue the Spanish defender during last weekend’s defeat and, even if an aging Ashley Cole does start on the left and Azpilicueta on the right, it’s still a tactic worth employing.

One reason it can bring success for Atletico is that it isolates Chelsea’s centre-halves, creating the opportunity for the fit-again Diego Costa to attack John Terry or Gary Cahill in one-v-one situations.

A boring scoreless draw will do for Jose

Chelsea’s form away from home is very worrying. They’ve lost three of their last four — to Aston Villa, Crystal Palace and PSG — scoring just two goals in those games.

Tonight though, a 0-0 scoreline would be almost as good as a win for Jose Mourinho with Eden Hazard — Chelsea’s most obvious attacking threat — unlikely to start following the calf injury he picked up in the win over PSG that put Chelsea in the the semi-finals.

Out-muscling Chelsea in midfield brings risks 

Source: Gregorio Lopez/CORDON/Press Association Images

The work rate of Gabi and Tiago in the Atletico midfield should not be under-estimated.

They have the fitness and ability to out-work and out-muscle Chelsea, particularly if David Luiz starts — as has been suggested he might — in place of Branislav Ivanović in defence.

However, their pressing approach often means that there is plenty of space in behind leaving Oscar, Willian, Hazard or Schürrle free to run at Diego Godín or Miranda on any occasion they do venture forward.

The return of the Prodigal Son?

With Eto’o left behind in London, former Atletico poster-boy Fernando Torres is likely to start up front on his own — as he has done several times away from home for Chelsea — in the Vicente Calderon but will a return to his old stomping ground provide the spark he has so badly missed at Chelsea?

While Torres undoubtedly enjoyed a successful time at Liverpool, it just hasn’t worked out for him since his move to London. However, given that he was mobbed at the airport on his arrival in Madrid this week, he’s unlikely to ever have less pressure on him in an away Champions League tie again. Time to repay some of his hefty transfer fee.

Jose’s behaviour

It’s fair to say that Jose Mourinho’s attitude in dealing with the press — and, indeed, in accepting responsibility for his own short-comings — has been less than idea over the last week.

After giving the briefest of press conferences following the surprise defeated to Sunderland, he was in equally bullish mode ahead of today’s game, refusing to talk about anything other than the Champions League.

Of course, he is perfectly entitled to do that, it was the day before a Champions League game, but he’s unlikely to have many defenders in the four estate should it all go wrong in Madrid this evening.

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About the author:

Steve O'Rourke

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