Stamford Bridge, London
April 30, 2014; 19:45 BST
Chelsea FC host Atletico Madrid in the second leg of their Champions League semi-final tie at Stamford Bridge tonight as they look to book their place in the final for the third time. The London club produced a wonderful defensive performance at Madrid to keep the score down to 0-0 and will be hoping for another clean-sheet at home. Atletico’s last visit to the stadium was back in 2009, when they suffered a humiliating 4-0 defeat Salomon Kalou scoring a brace, but things are expected to be much close this time around.
Chelsea are coming into this game on the back of an amazing 0-2 win over league leaders Liverpool at Anfield. The Blues displayed defensively organisation and spirit to pull off that result, which has blown the title race wide-open once again, with a fairly second string side. But Jose Mourinho has indicated that the Champions League remain the club’s priority at this point, which is also their best chance of winning a trophy this season.
Atletico Madrid are leading the La Liga table and Diego Simeone has shown great resourcefulness to maintain the club’s great run in the domestic league and in Europe. They are coming into this game on the back of a hard fought win against Valencia with Raul Garcia scoring the winner. The Spanish side will be a bit dissatisfied with the fact that they failed to score a goal at home in the first leg, but this also means that 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge will be enough to take them through and Atletico Madrid do have enough fire power in their ranks to hurt Chelsea.
Team news and tactics
Jose Mourinho has a fairly suspension list to contain with ahead of this fixture. Frank Lampard and John Obi Mikel are suspended for this game after they picked up another booking in the first leg, while Nemaja Matic and Mohamed Salah are ineligible to participate. This leaves Mourinho with very few options at the center of the park and he will hope that David Luiz and Ramires can do the job on the night.
Eden Hazard, whose last start for Chelsea was in the first leg of their quarter-final tie against PSG at the start of this month, has recovered from his calf problem and is available for this game. John Terry, who picked up an injury in the first leg, has also trained with the group and Mourinho has revealed that the center-back will start this game. Interestingly, Petr Cech, who dislocated his shoulder in the first leg and was expected to be out for the rest of the season, has also trained with the first team, but is unlikely to start in this match. There are also doubts about the fitness of Samuel Eto’o, who was suffering from a knee-injury, but the former Barcelona striker is expected to recover in time for this game.
Jose Mourinho started with a counter-attacking 4-3-3 formation in the first leg with Mikel, Lampard and Luiz sitting in front of the defence to deny Atletico Madrid any space in the midfield, while Ramires dropped back as well on the right wing. They only had Fernando Torres and Willian upfront in attack and the duo looked to hurt the home side on counter-attack.
But the Blues are expected to switch to a more conventional 4-2-3-1 formation at home as they look to score the goals. Moreover, suspension of Mikel and Frank Lampard has left Mourinho with very few options. He rested a lot of his key players during the match against Liverpool at the weekend and is expected to make as many as eight changes to the starting line-up he used at Anfield.
Branislav Ivanovic, who was suspended in the first leg and played as a center-back against Liverpool, will move to his right back role in this game, while John Terry and Gary Cahill resumes their partnership at the center of the defence. Ashley Cole has produced some good performances in the last two games, but he will make way for Cesar Azpilicueta at left back.
David Luiz and Ramires will form the pivot ahead of the back four, while Willian, Oscar and Eden Hazard returns to the line-up as well. Samuel Eto’o is expected to the lead the line in this game in place of Demba Ba.
Expected starting line-up (4-2-3-1): Schwarzer (GK); Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta; Luiz, Ramires; Willian, Oscar, Hazard; Eto’o
Diego Simeone has a fully fit squad to choose from for this game, except for defender Javi Manquillo, who is part of the squad but is unlikely to feature due to a neck injury. But the main concern for Atletico Madrid in his game is the absence of Gabi at the center of the park due to suspension. The 30-year-old has been one of the most consistent performers for Simeone this season and his absence could affect their game-play.
Unlike Mourinho, Simeone didn’t have the luxury of resting his players at the weekends. He is expected to make only two changes to the side that travelled to face Valencia on Sunday. The suspended Gabi will be replaced by Mario Suarez in the midfield, while David Villa will make way for Deigo in attack.
Atletico Madrid had most of the possession in the first leg but failed to break down Chelsea’s defence. But things are sure to change in the second leg as the home side are expected to come out with a lot more attacking intent. This means the Diego Simeone can set-up his side to play their natural counter-attacking football and will look to hurt Chelsea on the break.
Luiz and Ramires are not the most reliable central midfield pairing and Simeone will fancy his chances of dominating the midfield even in the absence of Gabi. Tiago will once again be the key in unsettling the opponent, while Koke and Garcia will look to expose the wings with their pace.
Expected starting line-up (4-4-2): Courtois (GK); Juanfran, Miranda, Godin, Luis; Garcia, Tiago, Suarez, Koke; Diego, Costa
Players to watch-out for: Eden Hazard (Chelsea); Diego Costa (Atletico Madrid)
Prediction: Chelsea 1-1 Atletico Madrid