Date: Tuesday 23rd February 2021
Venue: National Arena
Kick-off: 20:00 GMT
Continuing this season’s theme of ‘football is just weird in the pandemic’, tonight Chelsea are in Bucharest for the first leg of their last-16 Champions League game against Atletico Madrid.
In La Liga, Atletico are 3 points clear at the top, with a game in hand, but go into the game off the back of a 2-0 home defeat to Levante, and with just one win from their last four games. Chelsea, meanwhile, are unbeaten in their last seven games but come into tonight’s match after a difficult game to watch against Southampton – it may have finished 1-all but was just one of those games that felt more like 2 points dropped than a point gained.
In the group stages, Atletico won just two of their six group games, whilst Chelsea had a more comfortable group stage, finishing top with 14 points. We’ve only won five of our last 11 Champions League games though and were soundly beaten 7-1 by Bayern Munich last season.
Against Southampton, our insistence on complying with social distancing rules at the back, was as costly as our lack of potency in the final third. We’ve done well to keep the goals conceded at a low level recently but facing Suarez, with the absence of Thiago Silva’s leadership of the backline, could expose the vulnerabilities we know are there.
Diego Simeone has never lost a home match as Atletico manager in the knockout stages of the Champions League, I haven’t seen anything in recent weeks to suggest that will change tonight.
Going into today’s game, Atletico Madrid manager, Diego Simeone, says “Tuchel has come to a financially very powerful club where year after year they make huge effort to sign big players. This year they invested in talented, young footballers and as soon as the team didn’t respond as they wanted it to, when they saw the investment didn’t pay, they made that change and brought in Tuchel. But it’s a really big team and since Tuchel’s arrival the team has improved, he put a good change in the numbers. Just look at what players they have: we see a Chelsea squad with three good goalkeepers, lots of good forwards, lots of good players on the bench – players that could start for any team in Europe. The squad they have formed there speaks for itself.”
Thomas Tuchel meanwhile, says “It’s a big test. They’re an experienced club at this level, (have) an experienced coach. Hopefully it brings out the best in us. We’ll do things our way, they’ll do things their way. It’s clear what you get when you play Atletico – fighting, experience, a team with a good mentality.”
For Atletico Madrid, Yannick Carrasco (foot), Sime Vrsaljko and Jose Gimenez (muscle) are injured, Hector Herrera (illness) has recently tested positive for Covid and Kieran Trippier is suspended.
For Chelsea, Thiago Silva remains out, whilst Kai Havertz and Christian Pulisic are available.
ATLETICO MADRID (Possible line-up); Oblak; Savic, Felipe, Hermoso; Llorente, Kondogbia, Koke, Saul, Lodi; Felix, Suarez
CHELSEA (Possible line-up): Mendy; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Rudiger; James, Kante, Jorginho, Alonso; Mount, Giroud, Werner
CURRENT FORM (ALL)
ATLETICO MADRID: WWDWDL
- In European competition, its two wins, three draws and 11 goals each head-to-head between the sides.
- In the previous Champions League knockout tie with Chelsea (2013-14), Atletico won 3-1 on aggregate.
- Chelsea’s last away win in the knockout stages was in March 2012 (1-0 against Benfica).
- Atletico have reached the knockout stages of the Champions League for the seventh time in the last eight seasons.
- Chelsea haven’t progressed past the round of 16 since 2013/14 (semi-finalists).
- Atletico have only conceded one goal in their last 12 Champions League knockout ties at their Vicente Calderon/Wanda Metroplitano stadiums.
- Chelsea only conceded twice in the group phase.
- Atletico scored only seven goals in six games in this season’s group stages.
- Chelsea won all three of their away games in this season’s group stages, scoring 10 goals on the road.
Sportsmole: Atletico Madrid 2-1 Chelsea