Atletico Madrid V Chelsea
Tuesday 22nd April. 7:45PM. ITV 1
All eyes will be turned to the Vicente Calderon for the first-leg of Chelsea’s Champions League semi-final against Atletico Madrid.
The Blues saw their Premier League challenge end with the shock defeat to Sunderland, which also ended Jose Mourinho’s 77-match unbeaten league record at Stamford Bridge, and this competition is now their only chance of silverware. Meanwhile, the Spaniards are still very much in the hunt for an astonishing and unlikely La Liga / Champions League double.
Nevertheless, Chelsea have been superb in Europe over the last three years and are aiming to complete a hat-trick of continental trophies. It should be an explosive encounter.
Atletico to punish vulnerable Blues
Diego Simeone’s men would be confident regardless of the opposition, but will definitely feel that they’ve had a fortunate draw as Chelsea are the weakest team left in the competition.
That’s not to say the Blues are incapable of lifting the trophy in Lisbon next month, but they are rank outsiders.
Chelsea’s recent form has been woeful. In addition to losing that unbeaten home streak, the Blues are on a run of just two wins in eight away matches – one of which came against a Swansea side who were reduced to 10-men within the opening 20 minutes.
Atletico have been sensational and are set to claim a first La Liga crown since 1996, finally breaking the el Clasico dominance. Their only home defeat of this campaign came in the Copa del Rey smei-final to rivals Real Madrid, in a contest that was already dead after Los Blancos had claimed a 3-0 first-leg victory. In short, Simeone’s men have turned the Vicente Calderon into a fortress; Chelsea will do very well to leave with anything.
Unfinished business for Jose
Despite winning this competition with both Porto and Inter Milan, Mourinho will not consider himself a success unless he leads the Blues to Europe’s elite prize.
Mourinho knows all about Atletico, who beat his Real Madrid in last year’s Copa del Rey final and will be fully aware of the threat posed by their talented squad. Whilst a lot of casual fans believe that Diego Costa is the Spanish side’s only real threat, anyone with any real knowledge knows that simply isn’t the case.
Nevertheless, Costa’s brilliance has drawn much praise and has reportedly made him Chelsea’s number one summer target. Whether he would want to leave the potential Spanish and European champions remains to be seen.
Having lifted two trophies in the maiden season of his first stint, starting the second without a single major honour would be seen as disaster by the Portugese manager. The Special One prides himself on winning silverware and will be absolutely gutted to see the Blues miss out lifting any prize.
Chelsea were superb in their second-leg fightback against PSG, but cannot afford to give Atletico the same sort of advantage here. It’s set to be an intense encounter.
Atletico Madrid V Chelsea Betting
La Liga side Atletico are the 10/11 favourites with Bet 365, who make Chelsea the 16/5 underdogs. The draw is available at 9/4.
In terms of offers on this match, Paddy Power’s MBS is the best. The bookmaker will refund all losing bets on first/last goalscorer, correct score, and scorecast bets if the match ends in a draw. It is well worth taking advantage of that promotion.
With all the speculation surrounding his future, it could be fate for Diego Costa to steal the headlines once more.
For all of their attacking flair, it is arguably Atletico’s defence that sets them aside from the rest of Europe’s elite.
Atletico have shutout Barcelona twice at the Vicente Calderon this year. As Chelsea reached this stage via away goals, keeping it tight at the back will be a priority for Diego Simeone’s men, who have won their last five matches at home without conceding.
Chelsea’s attacking problems have been evident all year; if Eden Hazard misses the game then those troubles will only be further increased.