It’s Atletico Madrid v Chelsea in the round of 16 of the Champions League! This tie is shaping up to be a fascinating clash between two traditional powerhouse clubs from Spain and England respectively. While the Spanish giants are running away with La Liga, the form of their London rivals, since the introduction of new manager Thomas Tuchel, has been more impressive. The first leg will be played in Romania due to the covid restrictions in Spain so the Blues will be hoping this neutral venue will give them the edge ahead of the reverse fixture at Stamford Bridge in mid March. The writers at The Chelsea Social give their predictions as to how the Atletico Madrid v Chelsea will unfold.
Atletico Madrid v Chelsea – Introduction
The moment Blues fans have been waiting for since securing top spot of their Champions League group. The knock-out stages yet again. While Chelsea dominated their group and came out as winners, some will look to the football gods for answers as to how they somehow landed current La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid. However, other fans will be salivating at the prospect of facing the Spanish giants given the saying: ‘to be the best, you have to beat the best‘. This writer is probably somewhere in the middle.
Interestingly, and flicking through the form guide, this first round tie suggests this game is perhaps more evenly poised than what some fans and pundits might have anticipated. Although it’s true Los Colchoneros have been superb for large parts of the season and have demonstrated relentless consistency in placing themselves in pole position to take out this season’s La Liga crown, they have not been at their best in recent performances.
The most strange aspect of their mixed form is that they have been uncharacteristically more open at the back, conceding 8 goals in their past 5 games. To be fair to them, they have given themselves a buffer in the league to allow momentary lapses in performances, most likely with one eye on the Champions League. That said, this up and down run could perhaps be an opportunity for Tuchel’s Blues (or a nightmare if Simeone gets his boys to take out their frustrations on poor old Chelsea).
Speaking of Chelsea, aside from the disappointing 1-1 draw against Southampton a few days ago, they have been a much stronger team since Tuchel’s arrival last month. In 7 games, the Blues have won 5, conceded 2 goals (1 of them being an own goal) and look to be a more well-rounded side that is genuinely playing both their team mates and manager. However, one aspect that continues to be highlighted about the Blues’ performances is their inability to create consistently good amounts of genuine goal-scoring opportunities. Some attribute this to the more defensive system change deployed via the three CBs, whereas others note this was a similar trend under previous managers in recent seasons.
In other words, while Chelsea continue to dominate possession and territory, the struggle comes in the final third and creating proper openings, particularly against low-block teams. Given the discipline of Atletico, as well as factoring in their high-quality players, seeing how Tuchel and his players stand up to this challenge will be very intriguing.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at how the The Chelsea Social team sees the Atletico Madrid v Chelsea game unfolding.
It’s the return of the Champions League! This is what European football fans dream about. Atletico Madrid v Chelsea is shaping to be a genuine blockbuster and is something I have been counting down the days to see. My feelings of this game are both nervous and excited. On one hand I am concerned about coming up against the might of Simeone’s men who have been brilliant this season, despite their recent form dip. However, the prospect of versing a top club in Europe’s premier competition is genuinely exciting and why global fans like myself wake up at all hours of the morning!
In terms of formation, I would be surprised if Tuchel didn’t stick to the 3 at the back given the team’s growing familiarity and the extra defensive reassurance it adds. The personnel to fill these positions becomes a little more tricky to predict, particularly given the disappointing 1-1 draw on the weekend against the Saints. I also think it will depend on how Thomas Tuchel approaches this game in terms of whether he has a desire to be more pragmatic or look to take it to them ahead of the return leg.
I do believe Andreas Christensen (given Silva is out) and Jorginho will be reinstated and also I wouldn’t be surprised if Callum Hudson-Odoi starts at RWB ahead of Reece James, and, if Ben Chilwell comes in for Marcos Alonso. Either way, whoever the starting players, or who comes on from the bench, I want to see 100% effort for the duration of their time on the pitch. Big games like this call for big characters and total commitment. That’s the Chelsea standard. If we apply this, and despite the high-quality opponent, a hard-fought win is not out of this realm. Here’s hoping!
Final Score: Atletico Madrid 1 – 2 Chelsea
It’s always exciting to be back in action in the Champions League, especially when it comes to the knockouts stages! However, in recent years, the knockout stages have not been kind to us, having faced PSG, Barcelona and Bayern in the last-16, a round we have failed to progress from since 2014. This is certainly something we want to change this season. Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid side are a tough opponent to come up against but despite the challenge ahead, I am very much looking forward it.
Atleti have a strong squad, boasting the likes of Jan Oblak, Saul Niguez, João Félix and not forgetting prolific striker Luis Suarez. However, we certainly have the talent in our side to compete against the La Liga leaders and we will of course be up to the task though the absence of Thiago Silva in defence is a huge blow. The most important objective for the first leg is scoring a vital away goal (even the though the match is at a neutral venue) heading into the second leg at Stamford Bridge. Winning the match would be a bonus but I don’t personally see that happening, although I reckon we’ll come away with a draw which would be pleasing.
Final Score: Atletico Madrid 1 – 1 Chelsea
“THE CHAMPIOOONNSS!” The Champions League is finally back and my word, I’m excited for this clash against Atletico Madrid. Since Thomas Tuchel has come in, a lot of us suddenly have rejuvenated confidence for this game and its understandable. We remain unbeaten under Tuchel, although a win against Southampton at the weekend would have been much better than the draw we got. That game was a big lesson in taking the chances that come our way. Many times we got into good chance creating positions but we did not capitalise, something which Southampton did well.
Don’t get it twisted, the nerves for tonight are still there and I’m excited to see what this Chelsea team can do against the La Liga table-toppers. Gimenez, Carrasco and Herrera are out for Atleti – perhaps a blessing for Chelsea for tonight. I’m confident that we will be able to create chances but if we don’t take them, we will seriously regret it. I’m nervous, but as Mr Optimistic, I think we can win.
Final Score: Atletico Madrid 0 – 1 Chelsea
Who knows how much this prediction has been affected by the dullness of Chelsea’s trip to Southampton. I’d hope it hasn’t been tainted all that much but in honesty, what we witnessed was that poor it’s hard to be too optimistic. However, glass half full and all that, Atletico Madrid themselves are heading into this game on the back of their own upset. Just the two defeats in 23 games though for them. When it comes to the match, I’m expecting Chelsea to dominate a lot of the ball, in this case they will need to utilise their attacking players more than we have seen in recent games. If Callum Hudson-Odoi is selected after being subbed off against Southampton then he will have a huge role to play, whether it is as a right-wing back or a inside ’10‘.
Outside of Hudson-Odoi, it will be interesting to see who gets the nod out of Marcos Alonso and Ben Chilwell. Although the latter is undoubtedly the better player, having only made one start for Thomas Tuchel, it would be a huge call to throw him in against Atletico. Elsewhere, I’m hoping to see a continuation of the N’Golo Kante-Mateo Kovacic pivot in midfield, praying that the pair bring the first half performance from St Mary’s, not the second. Finally, as Thiago Silva isn’t fit for the game, playing Andreas Christensen in the back three would be the best alternative. In the end, I believe “Chelsea will have to suffer a lot”.
Final Score: Atletico Madrid 2 – 1 Chelsea
Written By: RJ, Matt, Luka and Tom
Edited By: Ross-John (RJ) Bonaccorsi (@RJ_Goodthings) & Robert Pratley
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