Chelsea face a huge test on Wednesday as they travel to Madrid to take on Atletico Madrid in the first ever Champions League game to be played at the Estadio Metropolitano.
Antonio Conte’s men beat Azerbaijani outfit Qarabag 6-0 on the opening day, but will look to this match against Atletico as extremely vital. Group C also includes Roma, and away games against these two teams are going to be very important for the Blues. They can’t bank on getting through based on home results alone. On the opening day, Roma and Atletico drew 0-0; a positive result for Chelsea.
There are several plots and sub-plots surrounding this game. The two teams last met in the semi-final of the 2013/14 Champions League season. After earning a goalless draw in Madrid, Chelsea seemed on their way to the finale after taking the lead through Fernando Torres. Atletico, however, completed a fantastic turnaround either side of half-time to win 3-1, with goals from Adrian, Diego Costa and Arda Turan.
Before that, they met in the group stages of the 2009/10 season. Chelsea won 4-0 at Stamford Bridge, before a 2-2 draw at the Vicente Calderon. Didier Drogba and Sergio Aguero traded braces in that game.
Now, Torres is back with Atletico. It will surely be an emotional moment for him to take to the pitch against his former club, with whom he won the Champions League in 2012. On the other hand, Diego Costa, despite having agreed a move back to the Spanish capital, is currently employed by Chelsea.
Another player to have switched sides since that game is goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois. The Belgian was on loan from Stamford Bridge at Atletico back in 2014, and put in a great display to keep his parent club out. Now, he’s back home and has won two Premier League titles. He’s now looking to make a mark among Europe’s elite.
Atletico have no injury or suspension worries and should field a full strength side for this one.
Chelsea are still missing Danny Drinkwater through injury. Conte could make a few tweaks to the side that Stoke City at the weekend. The Blues play Manchester City on Saturday in the Premier League. Will Eden Hazard start, or be rested for the weekend? Chelsea could also go with a 3-5-2 in this one, playing all of Tiemoue Bakayoko, N’Golo Kante and Cesc Fabregas to give them more stability in midfield.
Chelsea have won 8 of their last 9 away games in the Premier League stretching back to last season. It remains to be seen if they can continue their form on the road in the Champions League as well.
Atletico, on the other hand, are 11 matches unbeaten at home in the competition.
It’s going to be a tough one to call. Both teams play off the counter attack, but it looks like the onus to come out and take the initiative would be on the home side. This could suit Chelsea, who have made a living off picking teams out on the counter away from home.
This is a vital game in the group, not only to determine who qualifies, but also to determine who finishes top. With both teams treading with caution, they’ll cancel each other out.
Atletico Madrid 1-1 Chelsea
UEFA Champions League, Group C
Atletico Madrid vs Chelsea
Venue: Estadio Metropolitano, Madrid
Time: 19:45 BST
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