With both Chelsea and Atletico Madrid’s obvious penchant for sitting back and hitting opponents on the break, tonight’s game may not be for those looking for a spectacle.
Liverpool decided on Sunday to stick to their usual style of football when Chelsea visited Anfield. One Steven Gerrard slip allowed the Blues to score through Demba Ba, and the league leaders spent the rest of the game attempting desperately to break down Jose Mourinho’s defensively watertight unit. The Blues invited Liverpool forward and then hit them on the counter, eventually culminating in Willian’s injury-time insurance goal.
Atletico Madrid haven’t suffered defeat in their past 14 games, and will have watched Sunday’s game with interest. Diego Simeone is unlikely to adopt a gung-ho approach as he knows with so much at stake the team who makes the least mistakes will progress to May’s final in Lisbon. One away goal from Atletico will force Chelsea to chase the game and leave themselves more vulnerable at the back. Simeone’s side won’t throw the kitchen sink at the home side early on, instead they will play the ball around and probe for weaknesses.
It may not make for the most glorious game of football, but last night’s meeting of Real Madrid and Bayern Munich -billed beforehand as an ad for the beautiful game- was hardly high-drama either. With the outcome decided by half-time, the second half was a tawdry affair. It is difficult to see tonight’s game being less than competitive for the duration.
Chelsea: Schwarzer, Ivanović, Cahill, Terry, Azpilcueta, Cole, David Luiz, Ramires, Torres, Hazard, Willian
Atletico Madrid: Courtois; Torres, Miranda, Godin, Luis, Cardoso, Suarez, Koke, Arda Turan, Adrian, Diego Costa
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Full time thoughts – For all the talk about Chelsea’s defensive strengths. their lack of a cutting edge up front has cost them dearly tonight. They may have struck first but Atletico responded in emphatic fashion. It would have been understandable if Diego Simeone had set up his team defensively in the second half to protect the away goal lead, but Atletico came out and attacked Chelsea in admirable fashion.
Atletico are having an excellent season and even faced with an ultra defensive Chelsea line-up tonight they were well capable of creating opportunites. All the players worked hard for each other, and collectively they deserved the victory tonight. In contrast, Mourinho’s defensive know-how is only as effective as the players who implement his instructions on the field. Eden Hazard was at fault in the build up to two of Atletico’s goals tonight. Mourinho’s decision to omit the lively Schurrle in order to play Azpilicueta in midfield will be scrutinized in depth in tomorrow’s papers.
90+5 mins – The final whistle goes and Atletico’s incredible unbeaten Champions League season continues! They will face cross-city rivals Real in the final on May 24th. What a game that will be.
90+3 mins – Chance! Hazard gets through on goal and Courtois blocks his shot with his legs. Terry blasts the follow up over the bar. Courtois desperate to keep a clean sheet.
90+2 mins – Chelsea pumping balls into the box but Atletico deal with them easily.
90 mins – Five minutes added but there’s little chance of a Chelsea comeback.
87 mins – Atletico fans in fine voice behind Courtois’ goal. They’re already wondering how to get their hands on tickets for the final.
84 mins – Chelsea reduced to scraps. Courtois watches as an Eto’o attempt to control the ball dribbles past his post.
82 mins – Nope. There was a bit of confusion there as Sosa looked injured and Simeone wanted to check he was ok before making the substitution. The change can be made now as Turan makes way.
81 mins – Diego Simeone applauds as Arda Turan makes way for Cristian Rodriguez in Atletico’s final substitution.
79 mins – Atletico still look the team most likely to score. Chelsea looking disorganized, even in defence.
76 mins – If Atletico hold on, it’ll be the first European Cup final encounter between two sides from the same city. The entire population of Madrid will be in Lisbon on May 24th. Apart from a few sullen Getafe fans.
75 mins – Substitutions. Diego Costa limps off to be replaced by Jose Sosa. Another midfielder on the field for Atletico. Willian is replaced by Schurrle in Chelsea’s final substitution.
71 mins – GOAL! 3-1 Atletico! Arda Turan reacts quickest to slot home a ball that came off the crossbar from his own header. Eden Hazard yet again switched off to allow Juanfran get the initial cross in. Surely that’s the end of the road for Chelsea!
69 mins – Ivanovic’s shot is smartly saved by Courtois but the whistle had already gone for a Demba Ba foul on the goalkeeper.
66 mins – Demba Ba on for goalscorer Fernando Torres, who applauds both sets of fans on his way to the bench.
65 mins – Raul Garcia comes on for Adrian. Diego Simeone shoring up the midfield.
64 mins – Adrian Lopez gets a yellow card for a needless foul near the Chelsea box.
63 mins- Chance! David Luiz’s header ricochets off of the post and Courtois parries clear. Chelsea almost managed to claw one back immediately.
62 mins – Chelsea fans look apprehensive. Can their team score twice in the next 30 minutes or so?
59 mins – GOAL! 2-1 Atletico! After getting yellow carded for marking the penalty spot (or time-wasting maybe), Costa makes no mistake. His penalty finds the roof of the net and now Chelsea need two goals.
58 mins – PENALTY! Eto’o trips Costa just inside the box. Clumsy striker’s challenge from the substitute.
57 mins – Atletico look like the side chasing the game. They’ve been liveliest in the first ten minutes or so of the second half.
54 mins – Atletico calls for a penalty as Azpilicueta appears to drag down Turan are waved away by the referee.
53 mins – Substitution for Chelsea as Eto’o replaces Ashley Cole. Azpilicueta reverts to left back.
52 mins – Chance! Great save from Courtois as John Terry arrives like a train to head a long free kick towards goal.
50 mins – Courtois gathers a long ball with ease with Torres challenging. The Belgian goalkeeper is playing at Stamford Bridge for the first time tonight, even though he’s technically a Chelsea player the past 3 years. Eto’o getting instructions from Mourinho.
47 mins – Schwarzer spares the blushes of Terry and Ivanovic as they fail to deal with another ball across the face of the goal. The shot from Adrian blocked away by the goalkeeper.
20:48 – Back underway at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea must score in the next 45 mins to advance to the final.
Half time thoughts – Both lauded defences have been breached and the momentum is definitely with Atletico going in at the break ahead on away goals. For the first half an hour it was difficult to see who would make the breakthrough, and when Torres put Chelsea ahead you expected the home side to park more double deckers than Evil Knievel would jump over. A lapse from Hazard allowed Juanfran to create Adrian’s equalizer and now Chelsea need another goal if they are to progress. Atletico will defend ferociously and look to catch Chelsea on the break. The manager whose team progresses tonight will have earned their night’s wage.
45 mins – The referee adds no time at the end of the half so the teams trudge off with the bare 45 gone.
43 mins – GOAL! 1-1. Juanfran escapes Hazard at the back post and when Tiago’s cross finds him he squares to Adrian who scuffs the ball into the ground and into the top corner of Chelsea’s goal. The advantage has swung firmly back in Atletico’s favour! Terry and Cole could maybe have done better defending the ball across the square from Juanfran.
41 mins – Another decent delivery from Koke reaches Adrian who can’t direct the ball past Schwarzer. The Australian gathers gratefully.
39 mins – So… That was an assist by Azpilicueta. Playing in an unfamilia midfield role. Cue fawning tributes to Mourinho’s tactical genius if Chelsea win tonight.
35 mins – GOAL! 1-0 Chelsea! Willian with excellent work down the right allows Azpilicueta to find Torres in the centre. The striker’s shot deflects off Mario Suarez past the helpless Courtois. First goal Atletico have conceded in 7 games. They’ll need to work even harder to break down Chelsea’s defence now!
34 mins – Costa is getting a little annoyed with the quality of ball played up to him. The latest effort is easily dealt with by John Terry again.
30 mins – First yellow card of the night for Gary Cahill for a challenge on Costa ten yards outside the Chelsea box. Koke’s ball was dangerous but well cleared by Terry.
27 mins – Chelsea have had a lot of the possession so far but don’t seem too keen to push forward. For Atletico, Diego Costa is moving around to find the ball, but in doing so he’s leaving his midfielders one option less through the middle.
24 mins – A corner for Chelsea nearly finds its way to John Terry at the backpost. It’s cleared by Atletico for another corner but Terry complains to the referee that his shirt was pulled.
22 mins – Even cheekier shot from David Luiz as the ball comes in from the throw. He chests the ball facing away from goal and unleashes a scissors kick which flies narrowly past the far post.
21 mins – Cheeky dummy from Eden Hazard allows Ramires in behind the Atletico defence. Miranda does well to put the ball out for a throw/
18 mins – One of Chelsea’s six defenders makes a mistake and atones immediately. Gary Cahill misplaces a pass and has to scramble to block a shot from Costa close to the Chelsea goal.
15 mins – A good run from Diego Costa ends when he opts for a shot himself from a difficult angle. He might have been better served laying the ball off to the onrushing Tiago at the edge of the box.
14 mins – Willian commandeers the set-piece and scoops it over the bar. Not enough room there to get it over the wall and back under the crossbar.
13 mins – Free-kick in a promising area for Chelsea as Koke fouls Ramires on the edge of the “d”.
12 mins – You get the feeling that the longer it remains nil-nil the more each team will be happy to get men behind the ball. A goal from somewhere however… and all hell could break loose as the team behind will have to chase the game.
8 mins – Very crowded in the centre of the field early on as both teams are quick to close down the ball.
3 mins – Chance! Nearly an early away goal for Atletico. A Koke cross loops over everyone including Schwarzer, hits the crossbar and post before ricocheting off of Cahill and over the bar.
2 mins – Fernando Torres with a lovely bit of juggling in the midfield but he’s eventually disposessed. Himself and Diego Costa could be swapping clubs this summer if reports are to believed. Costa wanted by Chelsea and Torres could be used as the bait that makes his former club to bite.
1 min – Dave (alright Azpilicueta) has lined up on the right side of midfield.
19:45 – They’re ready to go at Stamford Bridge, just as soon as a minutes silence for Tito Vilanova and Vujadin Boskov is observed. Actually, it’s a minutes applause. The done thing nowadays.
19:40 – Meanwhile on RTE, Billo is commentating on Maradona taking a selfie on a phone that looks like a minion from Despicable Me. As you do.
19:35 – Gary Neville commentating on Sky tonight. Cover your ears if Torres scores at any stage.
19:30- Ex-Chelsea midfielder Tiago starts for Atletico tonight in place of Gabi. Prolific striker Diego Costa will hope to shake off the shackles of the Chelsea defenders. If he or partner Adrian Lopez can’t find a breakthrough, David Villa is on the bench.
19:25 – Plenty of attacking options on the bench for Chelsea tonight however. Schurrle, Oscar, Ba and Eto’o all among the substitutes.
19:15 – Interesting team selection from Jose Mourinho. Six defenders (if you count David Luiz) named in the starting XI. Will there be three centre-halves with Cole and Azpilicueta as wing backs? Sky Sports reckon Azpilicueta (the Spaniard known simply as Dave) will form part of a midfield three with Luiz and Ramires.