Champions League: Chelsea Defense Quiets Attack-Minded Atletico Madrid
Atletico Madrid practically lived in the final third against a Chelsea side that were told to defend, defend and defend some more by head coach Jose Mourinho. Diego Costa, Arda Turan and Diego Ribas were all unable to inspire their team to victory as they had to settle for the 0-0 draw in their Champions League semifinal first leg encounter.
The game was a good result for Chelsea, but the return leg has been made even more difficult as injuries to John Terry and Petr Cech are hurting their chances to advance. Terry may be back next week, but Cech is out for the remainder of the season with a dislocated shoulder. In addition, Branislav Ivanovic was missing in today’s match, as was Eden Hazard. Both are expected for the home leg, but anything could happen until next Wednesday.
Atletico Madrid happily welcomed Turan back to the game after missing four games due to injury. He came in as a second-half substitute to add some attacking specialty and he did just that, but he was unable to find the back of the net. He did fit in nicely, but even his presence was no trouble for Chelsea, who managed to defend heartily throughout the match.
In the second leg, Atletico Madrid have to defend a bit more than they did today as they will be on hostile territory. Turan has to start so that he could rightfully play in the No. 10 role to help Costa and David Villa find more openings on frame. Diego Simeone has to stick with a 4-2-3-1 throughout the match as the 4-4-2 is proving insufficient against a stern Chelsea defense.
For Chelsea, Mourinho has to allow his team to attack more even with the 4-2-3-1, but needs to start Samuel Eto’o or Demba Ba instead of Fernando Torres. The defense needs to push up more instead of just clearing passes. They need to peg Atletico back the same way they were pegged today. Playing a bit more physically and pressing throughout the match the same way they did against Galatasaray and Paris Saint-Germain could help them get a favorable result against a feisty Spanish side.
No one said this would be easy for either side, but this one is still up for grabs as a place in the UCL final is on the line. Expect both sides to fight until the finish and to leave everything on the field.