Venue: Vicente Calderon
Kick-Off: 19:45 (BST)
TV Info: Fox Sports 1 USA (11:45 AM Pacific)
Chelsea travel to the Vicente Calderon to face Atletico Madrid on Tuesday night and it looks set to be one of the most fascinating clashes of the Champions League.
Atletico Madrid have been enjoying a extraordinary campaign so far and no one can begrudge the Spanish side of their success this season. Under Diego Simeone, the Spanish side have been simply magnificent to watch and have won over a lot of neutrals with their fearless brand of football.
Atleti saw off the mighty Barcelona in the previous round of the competition and it has to be said that they completely outplayed their much illustrious opposition. Chelsea are the opponents next and one can be sure that Simeone’s men will be more than up for it in perhaps the one of the most important clashes in the club’s history.
The semi-finals of the Champions League is uncharted territory for Atletico but given the season they are enjoying at the moment both domestically and in Europe, it will be difficult to bet against the Spanish side claiming another major scalp in the form of Chelsea.
Contrast to the tremendous excitement surrounding Atletico, Chelsea suffered a huge blow in their Premier League hopes after defeat against Sunderland, which ended Jose Mourinho’s proud unbeaten record at Stamford Bridge.
However, the Blues do not have too much time to feel sorry for themselves and will need be geared up for the task at hand against Atletico Madrid.
The Blues qualified for the semi-finals of the Champions League in the most dramatic of circumstances and will once again have to put in another herculean effort if they are to qualify for the final of the competition twice in three years by seeing off Simeone’s dangerous side.
With the return to full fitness of Arda Turan, Diego Simeone has his full strength team to choose from for Tuesday night’s clash.
There had been a lot of talk leading upto the game about whether or not Thibaut Courtois would face his parent side and thankfully for Simeone, the young custodian has been allowed to feature. The Belgian will start in goal and will be most probably shielded by a defence consisting of Diego Godín, Filipe Luis, Francisco Juanfran and Miranda.
Simeone is spoilt for choice in midfield but has tended to go with Gabi and former Chelsea boy Tiago and look set to do so on Tuesday night as well. The sensational Koke will start in the playmakers role while David Villa and Raul Garcia will be supporting goal machine Diego Costa from the wings.
The likes of Diego, Arda Turan, Adrian and Mario Suarez are all also available and will be looking to out themselves into contention.
Mourinho on the other hand, has a few injuries and suspensions to contend with ahead of the clash. He will be without the services Samel Eto’o (injury), Branislav Ivanovic (suspension), Mohamed Salah and Nemanja Matic (cup tied).
Petr Cech will return in goal after sitting out in the weekend clash against Sunderland and will be playing behind the defence consisting of Cesar Azpilicueta, Gary Cahill, John Terry and Ashley Cole.
Frank Lampard and Ramires look the most likely combination but David Luiz is also in with a shout while Eden Hazard, whose fitness has been subject to much discussion ahead of the game, looks likely to feature after travelling with the squad. Willan should start as well and either one of Oscar or Andre Schurrle will complete the midfield.
Atletico Madrid icon Fernando Torres may get the nod upfront to start in the absence of Eto’o but Demba Ba has also staked a claim with some important goals in recent times.
Atletico Madrid (Probable XI): Courtois; Luis, Miranda, Godin, Juanfran; Villa, Suarez, Koke, Gabi, Turan; Costa
Chelsea (Probable XI): Cech; Cole, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta; Hazard, Ramires, Lampard, Oscar, Willian; Torres
Atletico Madrid: D W W W W
Chelsea: L W W W L
It looks set to be a fascinating tactical battle between the fearless Simeone and the pragmatic Mourinho over the course of the tie. The wily Mourinho may have the upper hand in experience but Simone perhaps has a better side overall and it is impossible to decide who is better equipped to lead their side into the final.
Atletico Madrid perhaps head into the first leg in better shape, having been unbeaten in their last 12 matches while Chelsea have stuttered in recent times. That being said, the Atletico Madrid side is very inexperienced at this stage of the competition, while the Chelsea players have done it all before and are better equipped to handle the pressure better.
The onus will be on Atletico to attack from the start as they are the home team. On the other hand, Chelsea will surely be holding back and look to counter on the break in order snatch an away goal.
The match looks set to be a tight one with minor details probably deciding the game. A lot will also depend on how the managers influence the clash as the game wears on.
Atletico have been imperious at the Vicente Calderon and Chelsea have been patchy away from home. Therefore, the Spanish side should be able to pick up a narrow victory.
Atletico Madrid 1 – 0 Chelsea