A place in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals will be on the line when Chelsea host Atletico Madrid at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.
The Round of 16 stage of the UEFA Champions League is set to reach its culmination this midweek, with the final two second leg fixtures set to be played on Wednesday. One of the remaining two spots in the quarter-finals will be grabbed by either of Chelsea and Atletico Madrid at the end of their meeting at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea are in the middle of a resurgent run under the tutelage of Thomas Tuchel, who is yet to lose a game in-charge of the Blues. The west Londoners come into this Wednesday’s game on the back of a 13-game unbeaten run, part of which has propelled them up to 4th in the Premier League table. In the UEFA Champions League, Chelsea are unbeaten this term, having also topped their group to reach the Last 16.
Atletico Madrid, on the other hand, finished runners-up in Group A to make it to the Round of 16 and have managed to win just two of their seven games in Europe in the ongoing campaign. The Colchoneros, though, are enjoying a memorable season in La Liga, where they are perched atop the standings, although they have slipped up a bit in recent weeks due to a few draws.
The first leg, played in Bucharest last month, saw Chelsea eke out a narrow 1-0 win over Atletico Madrid, courtesy of a second-half strike by Olivier Giroud. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Thomas Tuchel has a couple of fresh roster issues hampering his preparations ahead of the visit of Atletico Madrid. On Wednesday, the Chelsea manager is set to be bereft of the services of four first-team players due to suspension and injury-related absences.
Thiago Silva (thigh) and Tammy Abraham (ankle) remain unavailable due to their respective fitness concerns. The injured duo has now been joined on the sidelines by Jorginho and Mason Mount. both of whom will serve a one-match ban due to an accumulation of yellow cards.
The absence of Jorginho and Mount will force Tuchel into at least a couple of changes. Mateo Kovacic is expected to come in for Jorginho in the midfield double pivot alongside N’Golo Kante, with the Croat being tasked with providing the forward thrust from the middle of the park. Mount, on the other hand, will likely make way for Timo Werner in the attacking unit.
Werner will be one of the two attacking midfielders playing off of the central striker, who ought to be Olivier Giroud, with Callum Hudson-Odoi starting in place of Hakim Ziyech. Giroud’s inclusion will be with a view of having a focal point high up the pitch to put a resilient Atletico Madrid backline under some pressure.
Reece James and Marcos Alonso should return as the two wing-backs, with the duo being tasked with providing the deliveries from the flanks for Giroud. At the back, though, there is no looking past Andreas Christensen, Antonio Rudiger and captain Cesar Azpilicueta, with Edouard Mendy set to take his place in the Chelsea goal.
Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Mendy; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Rüdiger; James, Kante, Kovacic, Alonso; Hudson-Odoi, Werner; Giroud
Unlike his counterpart in the Chelsea dugout, Diego Simeone does not have any fresh concerns to deal with ahead of the trip to west London. In fact, on Wednesday, the Atletico Madrid boss will have a full-strength squad to choose from.
With that in mind, it will be interesting to see which personnel make the cut in the final starting lineup. One thing that is certain is that Atletico Madrid will be set up in a system that will essentially see them sit in a 4-4-2 formation in the defensive phase while assuming a 3-4-2-1 shape in transitions.
The back three ought to feature Stefan Savic, Felipe and Mario Hermoso, who will be the left-back when Atletico Madrid are off the ball. Kieran Trippier will essentially feature as a right wing-back but will drop deep when Chelsea look to push forward, with Marcos Llorente providing defensive support in such scenarios. Between the sticks, Jan Oblak is the obvious pick for the visitors.
Yannick Carrasco will be the other auxiliary wing-back who will sit in front of Hermoso when Atletico Madrid are behind the ball. In the middle of the park, the onus will be on Saul Niguez and captain Koke to keep things tight while also aiming to initiate quick transitions when the visitors are in possession.
The forward thrust higher up the pitch will be provided by Marcos Llorente, with Angel Correa getting into central areas to play off of Luis Suarez, who will be desperate to end his incredible away drought in the UEFA Champions League against Chelsea.
Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Oblak; Savic, Felipe, Hermoso; Trippier, Saul, Koke, Carrasco; Llorente, Correa; Suarez
- Chelsea have won just one of their three home games in the UEFA Champions League against Atletico Madrid (D1 L1), a 4-0 win in the 2009/10 group stages. Their sole home defeat was in the 2013/14 semi-finals, losing 3-1. Under Diego Simeone, Los Rojiblancos are unbeaten in each of their two Champions League games at Stamford Bridge (W1 D1).
- Chelsea’s record in the Champions League Round of 16 is W8 L6. The Blues have lost their last four contests at this stage. Atletico Madrid have won five of their seven Round of 16 ties. Last season’s 3-2 second-leg win at Liverpool, though, was only their second victory in their last ten away matches in the Champions League knockout rounds (D2 L6).
- In their history in European competition, Chelsea have never been knocked out of a two-legged knockout tie after winning the first leg away from home, progressing from all 13 such ties.
- Last season’s victory at Liverpool was just Atletico Madrid’s third win in 14 away games against English clubs (D7 L4). However, the Colchoneros are unbeaten in their last five visits to England (W2 D3).
- In the 12 games that Thomas Tuchel has overseen, Chelsea have kept 10 clean sheets and are yet to lose a game (W8 D4).
Player to Watch
He might not have been the first-choice striker over the course of his stint with Chelsea or for any stretched periods this season. However, in the UEFA Champions League, the Frenchman has proven to be the go-to man for the Blues, leading the way with six goals to his name.
In fact, Giroud is only three goals short of setting an outright record of most goals scored for Chelsea in a single edition of the Champions League. As far as the immediate future is concerned, Giroud will provide the focal point that could give Chelsea the required edge to get the better of a stubborn Atletico Madrid defence. Will the Frenchman deliver the goods again?
Chelsea 1-0 Atletico Madrid
This is one of those games that will have very little margin for error. Just like the first leg, there will be very little to separate the two sides, although Atletico Madrid will be aiming to take the game to Chelsea instead of sitting back and absorbing the pressure.
This time around, though, Chelsea will soak up the pressure, keeping yet another clean sheet to seal their place in the Champions League quarter-finals. There will be the odd goal to boot as well, which means the Blues will move to the next stage with a 2-0 aggregate win.