Chelsea will be hoping to achieve a solid result when they travel to Spain to face Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final on Tuesday (19:45 GMT, live on ITV).
Atletico come into the match on the back of a hard-fought 2-0 victory at home to Elche that saw them maintain their lead at the top of the Primera Division table with just four rounds left to play. They have 85 points from 27 wins, four draws and three defeats.
Diego Simeone’s side qualified for the Champions League knockout stages by topping Group G with 16 points from five wins and one draw. They comfortably dispatched AC Milan 5-1 on aggregate in the round of 16, before knocking out fellow La Liga side Barcelona in the quarter finals, winning the home second leg 1-0 to progress 2-1 on aggregate.
It has been a fantastic season for Atletico and one that Simeone will want to see crystallised into trophies during the final weeks of the campaign. His side are a well-drilled counter-attacking unit: strong in defence, tirelessly hard-working in midfield and lethal in the final third. They play with an intensity that regularly overawes their opponents.
Atletico have the best defensive record in La Liga and have also conceded just five goals in their 10 Champions League matches to date. They give up very few high-quality shots to their opponents. Up front, Diego Costa has enjoyed a superb campaign, scoring 35 goals in all competitions, while Arda Turan, David Villa, Koke and Raul Garcia have also chipped in.
Simeone has no confirmed injury absentees, but will await the results of a late fitness test on Turan, who has been out of action since the beginning of the month with a groin strain. After much discussion, it looks as if goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, on loan at Atletico from Chelsea, will take part.
Chelsea travel to Madrid on the back of a 2-1 home defeat to Sunderland that means they are now reliant on Liverpool dropping points to other sides in order to have any chance of winning the Premier League title. They are second, with 75 points from 23 wins, six draws and six defeats.
The Blues progressed to the Champions League knockout stages by winning Group E with 12 points from four wins and two defeats. They defeated Galatasaray 3-1 on aggregate in the round of 16, but found the going a lot tougher in their quarter final, narrowly avoiding elimination to go through on away goals against Paris Saint-Germain after a 3-3 aggregate draw.
Saturday’s defeat to Sunderland ended Jose Mourinho’s 77-match unbeaten league record at Stamford Bridge and was Chelsea’s fourth defeat in their last nine matches in all competitions. Mourinho (pictured above) made much of perceived refereeing injustices in his post-match press conference, but it was his side’s poor finishing that ultimately saw them drop points.
Goalscoring has, at times, proved problematic for Chelsea this season, particularly when they have faced deep-lying defensive blocks. They have by far the best defensive record in the Premier League, and have conceded just seven times in 10 Champions League matches, but have been far less impressive at the other end of the pitch.
Goalkeeper Petr Cech missed the defeat to Sunderland with a virus, but is expected to return to the starting lineup for this Champions League match. Eden Hazard will face a late fitness test on the calf injury he picked up in the second leg of the quarter final victory over PSG. Nemanja Matic and Mohamed Salah are cup tied.
Atletico Madrid vs Chelsea Betting Tips
These sides have met twice before in the Champions League, during the group stage of the 2009-10 competition, with Chelsea winning 4-0 at Stamford Bridge, while the match in Madrid ended in a 2-2 draw. More recently, Atletico, with Simeone in the dugout, were 4-1 victors when the sides met in Monaco for the European Super Cup final of 2012.
Atletico come into the first leg on the back of a 12 match unbeaten streak in all competitions and high on confidence after eliminating Barcelona in the quarter finals. They will seek to make the most of their home advantage and are likely to come out of the blocks quickly, hoping to blow Chelsea away with intense burst of early pressure.
Chelsea are, first leg against PSG excepted, strong and well-organised in defence and do carry a solid goal threat on the break through the pace and trickery of their attacking midfielders. Mourinho will likely be content to sit back and soak up pressure while hoping a steal an away goal on the counter attack.
This is a match between two very similar sides and we expect to see a tight, well-contested encounter. Home advantage should be enough to see Atletico establish a first leg advantage.
- Back Atletico Madrid to win @ Evens with Betfred or Ladbrokes.
- Back ‘no’ on the both teams to score market @ best odds of 8/11 with SkyBet.
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