Chelsea host Spanish giants Atletico Madrid in the final round of fixtures of the group stage, knowing that a win would seal top spot for the hosts
Los Rojiblancos, however, are in danger of not qualifying for the knockout rounds at all. For a team that reached 2 of the last 4 Champions League final, this might be a bitter pill to swallow.
The Blues, on the other hand, have already advanced. A win would guarantee top spot in the group, but any other result, and they will have to wait for AS Roma’s final score; the Italian giants host minnows Qarabag FK.
The hosts’ form guide makes for good reading – a 6-game unbeaten run after the humiliating 3-0 defeat in Rome two rounds ago in the Champions League. Of those 6 games, 5 have ended up in victory with the only draw coming against Liverpool last weekend.
After an indifferent start to the season, Atletico are finding some form of their own. They too are unbeaten in 6 in the league, 4 of those being wins. More importantly for them, their talisman Antoine Griezmann has found his scoring boots again. A Champions League knockout round without them would be unimaginable, but it looks like their chances of qualifying lie on a very thin thread.
Team news and tactics
In terms of injuries, Antonio Conte only has a few things to worry about. David Luiz sat out the weekend’s fixture with a knee injury and could miss out here too. Michy Batshuayi, however, will be back in contention after appearing on the bench against Newcastle. Charly Musonda and Kenedy would be back in contention too.
The more recently adopted 3-5-2 formation would be expected this time around too. Although Chelsea do not need to necessarily win this game, they will take no risks by being light in attack. Eden Hazard and Alvaro Morata – two of the most in-form attackers in the league – will be expected to start in the front-two.
The midfield, however, could go back to being a slightly defensive one. Like in the game against Liverpool, we could expect to see N’Golo Kante and Tiemoue Bakayoko both start in a deep-lying role in front of the defence. Spaniard Cesc Fabregas would be expected to partner them in the middle of the park.
All eyes, though, will be on the aforementioned attacking pairing of Morata and Hazard. The duo has set the Premier League alight recently, not only with their goals and assists, but with their seemingly telepathic understanding of each others’ movements off the ball.
Probable lineup (3-5-2): Courtois (GK), Cahill, Christensen, Azpilicueta; Alonso, Kante, Bakayoko, Fabregas, Moses; Hazard, Morata
Coach Diego Simeone has little to worry about in terms of injuries ahead of this match. Only right-back Juanfran is a doubt to start this game, but in Thomas Partey they have an able replacement for the Spaniard.
Given the magnitude of this game for the visitors, one can expect an attacking lineup to take the field. A 4-4-2 formation with the in-form Griezmann leading the line in attack and either of Angel Correa or Kevin Gameiro would be expected to partner him up-front.
Along with a star-studded midfield, they have full-backs who can and do join in attack whenever possible. Former Chelsea man Filipe Luis has been a regular at that spot ever since going back to the Los Rojiblancos, even managing a goal against Real Sociedad last weekend. To lead the midfield, however, they will be relying on Belgian star Yannick Carrasco.
Their main attacking outlet, however, has to be Antoine Griezmann. One of the most sought-after players in the world, the French superstar will need to step up and lead the team. He already has 7 goals in 17 matches in all competitions this season, and none will be more important if he manages to get on the score-sheet come Tuesday night
Probable lineup (4-4-2): Oblak (GK), Luis, Godin, Savic, Partey; Carrasco, Gabi, Niguez, Koke; Griezmann, Gameiro
Player to watch
Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid)
With a seemingly impossible task on their hand, they need some of the marquee names in the team to stand up and be counted. And it does not come much bigger than 26-year-old French star Antoine Griezmann.
With a transfer window approaching and the ready-again news cycles of him leaving for a bigger club, Griezmann’s time to shine is now. The Macon-born former Real Sociedad player has been responsible for 12 goals (7G, 5A) of his 17 appearances so far this season. And none will be more important than if he manages to score a winning one at Stamford Bridge.
- Atletico have won only one of their four previous away games against English teams, the last one being a 3-1 win against Chelsea in April 2014
- Chelsea have scored in each of their last 25 home games in the Champions League
- Even if they fail to beat Chelsea on the day, Atletico Madrid are assured of third place and a Europa League berth in the round-of-32
- Chelsea have reached the knockout stages 14 out of the 15 times they have appeared in the competition
- Antoine Griezmann has had a hand in all four (2G, 2A) of Atletico’s Champions League goals this season
Chelsea 1-1 Atletico Madrid
With both sides looking to attack and a win carrying much importance, they will most likely cancel each other out on the night. While the hosts will be happy with the result, it would mean that the visitors would be knocked out of the group stages of the competition.
The two-time finalists are already facing an uphill battle for qualification, coupled with the form Chelsea are in and especially of their attacking pair, the Atleti faithful might just head home with no knockout matches to look forward to.