Atletico Madrid take on Premier League champions Chelsea, in what will be the first ever UEFA Champions League match at their new Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.
Los Rojiblancos go into this tie unbeaten across all competitions this season. They have however, dropped points on three occasions already this season, including in their first Champions League match this season against Roma a fortnight ago.
Atletico are currently second in the La Liga table and in Group C, thanks to their 0-0 draw and Chelsea’s victory against Qarabag. Thibaut Courtois returns to the City and the team he once called home and it will be interesting to see what kind a reception he gets.
Chelsea go into this tie in fine form, having suffered defeat only once this season, that too in their first Premier League match of the season. They currently sit at third place in the Premier League table, only 3 points behind the two Manchester clubs.
They started their Champions League campaign this season in fine form, with a 6-0 thrashing of minnows Qarabag FK and will look to cement their position at the top of Group C for another few weeks with another victory against Simeone’s men.
Simeone isn’t expected to change his typical 4-4-2 formation when they welcome to Blues. Diego Godin and Juanfran will likely return to the starting eleven after being rested for their 2-0 victory over Sevilla. The rest of the lineup will likely be the same one that started against the Andalusians.
Thomas Partey however, is expected to start in the center of midfield alongside Koke, ahead of captain Gabi, in order to provide some dynamism in midfield. Carrasco and Saul Niguez will likely feature on the left and right wings, while Antoine Griezmann will likely be accompanied by Luciano Vietto upfront.
Fernando Torres wasn’t even in the squad for their match against Sevilla and Kevin Gameiro was brought on with only 9 minutes to go. They are all options to start alongside Griezmann, as is Angel Correa but it is yet to be seen whether Simeone picks youth over experience.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Jan Oblak; Juanfran, Stefan Savic, Diego Godin, Filipe Luis; Saul Niguez, Koke, Thomas, Yannick Carrasco; Antoine Griezmann, Luciano Vietto
While Conte started with a 3-4-3 against Stoke City, he is expected to switch to a more defensively solid 3-5-2 formation. He used it to great effect against Tottenham Hotspur and also switched to the formation at half time in their 0-0 draw against Arsenal to secure a point against the Gunners.
Tiemoue Bakayoko and N’golo Kante will provide some dynamism and defensive solidity in the middle of the park, while Fabregas will be allowed to a more advanced role in midfield and lesser defensive responsibilities, to try ensure that his creative prowess is used to full effect.
David Luiz’s return to the starting lineup should come a a nice boost for Conte. Eden Hazard will likely accompany Alvaro Morata upfront, but play in a more deeper role as a secondary striker. We should expect to see Chelsea’s full strength starting eleven for the first time this season and it will be interesting to see how they fare against world class opposition.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Thibaut Courtois; Cesar Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Gary Cahill; Victor Moses, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Cesc Fabregas, N’golo Kante, Marcos Alonso; Eden Hazard, Alvaro Morata
- Chelsea haven’t beaten Atletico Madrid in their last 4 meetings, having lost 2 and drawn 2.
- Atletico Madrid haven’t conceded in 16 of their past 19 home fixtures in the Champions League.
- Out of the last 15 matches that Chelsea have played in Spain, they have managed to win only 3.
- Atletico Madrid have lost only 1 Champions League home game while Diego Simeone has been in charge.
- Chelsea have progressed to the knockout stages of the competition in 13 of their last 14 appearances in the Champions League.
Player To Watch
The Spaniard is going into this clash in hot form, having scored a hattrick in his last game against Stoke City. All eyes will be on the 24-year-old, who is expected to make his Champions League debut for the Blues, after sitting out Chelsea’s 6-0 thrashing of Qarabag FK a fortnight ago.
Given his history with Atletico’s arch rivals Real Madrid, he can expect a hostile reaction from the home crowd. The fact that he spent two years as a part of Los Rojiblancos’ youth setup before leaving to Real Madrid in his formative years, shouldn’t make it any easier on him.
Morata has faced Atletico six times in his professional career and has both won and lost three times each. However, he is yet to find the net against them and scoring against Simeone’s men would be the perfect way to mark his European debut for Chelsea.
Atletico Madrid 1-1 Chelsea
Chelsea will undoubtedly be Atletico’s toughest test this season so far and they will certainly be looking to continue their unbeaten streak at this season, and look to get their first Champions League victory this season and what better place than to do it than their new home.
Simeone and Conte are both master tacticians of the same mould. They both have the tendency to try and marshall their teams from the sidelines and demand discipline and perfection from their men and we can expect the touchline to be as lively as the game.
There are a number of key battles that can decide the outcome in midfield and defence, and it will definitely be a close call. The Hard Tackle predicts a draw, with both teams canceling each other out.
Both sides possess too much attacking quality for it to not result in goals however, both teams are also well stocked with top defensive talent, meaning that neither team should be able to run riot on the night.