Atletico Madrid and Chelsea will lock horns in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg, as both sides will be aiming to qualify for the next stage.

Chelsea visit Arena Nationala in Romania for their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg, as the English giants will be aiming to topple La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid this midweek. This fixture has been considered as one of the most fascinating draws of this season’s Champions League knockout phase, and as the magnitude of the tie reflects, both teams will be raring to come out on top.

Diego Simeone’s men are heading into this clash after an agonising defeat against Levante at the weekend, and the Argentine manager will look at this tie as an opportunity to bounce back to winning ways. Atletico Madrid ensured their spot in the Round of 16 despite collecting just 9 points, as the Spanish giants grabbed the second spot in Group A behind Bayern Munich.

On the other hand, Chelsea ended up as the winners of Group E with 14 points from 6 games, beating Spanish side Sevilla to the top spot. Under the guidance of new manager Thomas Tuchel, the Blues have enjoyed a positive period, going unbeaten in their last eight fixtures across all competitions, but were held by Southampton in the Premier League on Saturday.

The last time these two teams collided with each other was back in the 2017/18 group stages. And ahead of the latest clash between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at this much-anticipated UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg.

Team News and Tactics

Atletico Madrid

Hector Herrera will miss out on this first leg, as the midfielder is currently unavailable after testing positive for the coronavirus. Uruguayan centre-back Jose Gimenez is another notable absentee, who took a blow against Levante in his last game.

The trusted figure of Jan Oblak will be the starter between the sticks for Atletico Madrid. In front of him, Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone will set his backline up with three formidable defenders. Stefan Savic should retain his place in the defensive unit alongside Felipe and Mario Hermoso, with the trio being given the responsibility to establish solidity in that territory.

Geoffrey Kondogbia should feature as the defensive midfielder, with the Frenchman looking to assert his authority in the middle of the park with help coming from Lucas Torreira. Koke should occupy the third slot in the centre of the park and look to provide a box-to-box presence.

Marcos Llorente ought to slot in on the right flank and look to push forward and join the strikers in the attacking third. Saul Niguez will be trying to pull the strings on the left-side channel.

Former Barcelona forward Luis Suarez will be keen to maintain his form and his presence in the final third could pose an issue for Chelsea. And to help the veteran, Angel Correa should be the final piece of the attacking unit, as his tireless efforts in those spaces could frustrate The Blues.

Probable Lineup (3-1-4-2): Oblak; Savic, Felipe, Hermoso; Kondogbia; Llorente, Koke, Torreira, Niguez; Correa, Suarez

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Chelsea

After his arrival at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel has definitely turned around the fortunes of the Blues, and his side’s recent form could spell trouble for the hosts on Tuesday. Brazilian veteran Thiago Silva won’t be able to take any part though, as he is suffering from a muscle injury.

American starlet Christian Pulisic is back in contention while Kai Havertz could also be available for selection with the Chelsea boss seeming positive about the fact that the duo could make a return for Tuesday’s gigantic clash.

Tuchel will set his team in a 3-4-3 formation, as Edouard Mendy will slot in as the last man in the defence. Cesar Azpilicueta, with his experience, could play a key role for Chelsea. Danish centre-back Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger will be the other two defenders, who will need to bring solidity to the table to disrupt the hosts’ attacking approaches.

Jorginho is likely to start as the central midfielder, as he will return after being benched against Southampton. Mateo Kovacic will be his partner, with the Croatian tasked with driving the team forward when he gets on the ball.

Callum Hudson-Odoi, after being subbed off thirty minutes into his appearance against Southampton should start as the right wing-back. His forward runs and link-up play could become a decisive factor. On the other flank, Marcos Alonso ought to start but needs to improve his end product a great deal after disappointing against the Saints.

Mason Mount has been going through a promising phase under his new manager, and his creativity needs to be at its top tune to rattle the sturdy defensive unit of Atletico Madrid. Summer signing Timo Werner will be in for the biggest game of his Chelsea spell so far and his performance in the left channel could hold the key for the Blues.

The top scorer for Chelsea in this competition, Olivier Giroud, will start from the bench, with Tammy Abraham likely to get the nod as the centre-forward. He will need to step up after an underwhelming outing last time out.

Probable Lineup (3-4-3): Mendy; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Rudiger; Hudson-Odoi, Kovacic, Jorginho, Alonso; Mount, Werner, Abraham

Key Stats

  • In the last five meetings between the two teams, Atletico Madrid have registered two victories while Chelsea picked up just one win, in September 2017.
  • Chelsea are unbeaten in their last 4 away fixtures across all competitions. As for Atletico, they have faced two consecutive home defeats.
  • Olivier Giroud has scored the most goals for Chelsea in the Champions League this term (5). Joao Felix scored 3 times for Atletico Madrid in the group stage.
  • Chelsea have conceded just two goals in this competition, whereas Atletico Madrid have shipped in 8 goals in their group stage fixtures.
  • Chelsea are undefeated in their last six matches in the UEFA Champions League.

Player to Watch

Timo Werner

The summer signing has been struggling to settle in his new surroundings, but his recent form could play a pivotal role in the mammoth clash on Tuesday. Werner has the capability to cause problems to the Atletico defence with his movement and sped and he needs to capitalize on any chance that comes his way on the day.

In his 33 appearances across all competitions, Werner has put the ball back into the net 10 times, and along with that, he has served 9 assists as well. With three goals and an assist in this particular competition, Werner would desire to enhance his tally. A strong performance against Atletico could set the tone for the rest of the season for the German.

Prediction

Atletico Madrid 1-1 Chelsea

It ought to be an extravagant event between the two heavyweights of European Football, as both sides can not afford to lose here. Chelsea will be eyeing to grab the lead in the first leg of this tie and to pull that off they need to ensure their stability in the backline.

Meanwhile, Atletico Madrid will have to showcase their strength in the centre of the park, which could emerge as the decisive factor in this mega clash. Atleti have been going through a rugged phase in the recent weeks but with the Blues not firing on all cylinders upfront, they might find it difficult to break through a tight defensive unit.

We at The Hard Tackle are predicting the first leg of this Round of 16 stage encounter to end in a 1-1 draw.

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