By, Ayodeji Itasanmi (Twitter: @aryhorblueblood)
Estadio Wanda Metropolitano/September 27, 2017
With the three points from the Bet365 Stadium safely in the bag we head to Spain on the second lap of three potentially difficult matches in the space of just eight days to face Atletico Madrid, at their new abode the magnificent Wanda Metropolitano on Wednesday, before signing off with the visit Manchester City to Stamford Bridge on Saturday. Unlike Spurs, Atletico Madrid has taken to their new home like fish to water with a 100% winning record there even if they have only played twice beating both Malaga and Sevilla without conceding. Antonio Conte will surely be relishing the opportunity to square off against Diego Simeone after their many duels during their playing days when Conte was playing for Juventus and the Argentine was on the books of Inter Milan. This is however their first face off as coaches of opposing sides in European competition when Conte’s Chelsea takes on Simeone’s Atletico on Wednesday night.
There have only been five matches involving these two clubs with Atletico having the slight advantage with two victories against Chelsea’s one. The first of those matches took place at Stamford Bridge during the 2009/10 season when Carlo Ancelotti’s Chelsea put four past Abel Resino’s Atletico Madrid with the goals being scored by Salomon Kalou (2), Frank Lampard and an own goal at the dearth by Luis Perea. Both Atletico Madrid victories against Chelsea have come away from the Vincente Calderon Stadium (their former home before moving to the Wanda Metropolitano this season) with the first coming in Monaco in the UEFA Super Cup, following our triumph in the Champions’ League in 2012, which they won thanks to Radamel Falcao’s hat trick. The second came at Stamford Bridge at the semi-final stage of our 2013/2014 Champions’ League campaign having drawn the first leg a week before. Perhaps the most important statistic for me going into this fixture is that Chelsea have yet to lose against Atletico Madrid in Spain having drawn both our matches there to date in 2009 and 2014. Diego Costa’s presence in the stands should spur our players on just to show him what he’ll be missing.
Eden Hazard again began the game at Stoke on the bench as Antonio Conte continues to ease him back into the team after his ankle injury so we wait to see whether Conte considers him ready to begin the game in Madrid on Wednesday night. Another selection headache facing Conte is who to lead line between Batshuayi and Morata after they both got hat tricks last week albeit against different oppositions in different competitions. Personally I would like to see the Spaniard continue as he seem to have come into his own in front of goal and I want that to continue especially in front of a watching Diego Costa. Davide Zappacosta announced himself to the Stamford Bridge crowd in spectacular fashion on match day 1 and should continue at RWB with Moses coming back in for the visit of City at the weekend. David Luiz should also get the nod ahead of Christensen at RCB with him suspended for the weekend unless of course his wrist has not healed enough to be risked as he will be important for the season ahead. Gary Cahill also began the Stoke City game on the bench but it’s unclear whether that was because Conte wanted him ready for this match or it’s a way for the coach to appreciate Rudiger for his impressive performances since the beginning of the season. For me though either one of the two at LCB is fine by me. Alonso should be ready to take to the pitch again after he was subbed off at the weekend in what was a ‘tactical’ switch according to the coach. Cesc Fabregas has started every game he’s been available for until last weekend at Stoke when he began on the bench but whether that was a tactical move or just a precaution is yet to be seen. Atletico Madrid play a high defensive line which makes the game perfect for Fabregas to do his thing but then again midfield is one of the strong points and Fabregas in a midfield two will be a liability defensively rather than an offensive asset that we know he can be. I see Antonio Conte sacrificing one of Pedro or Willian (or even both of them depending on where Hazard starts the game) to accommodate Fabregas while pairing Kante and Bakayoko in central midfield.
Courtois; Azpilicueta, Luiz, Cahill; Zappacosta, Kante, Bakayoko, Alonso; Hazard, Fabregas; Morata
Last Five Matches: WWDWW
Injuries: Danny Drinkwater (Muscular) –Out
Diego Simeone likes to line his team up in a 4-2-3-1 formation but some coaches have set their team up in similar 3-4-3 formation to counter Antonio Conte’s team so we wait to see whether the Argentine, being a tactical coach himself, will dump his favoured formation just for Wednesday night. Jan Oblak has taken the number one spot since Thibaut Courtois retuned to Chelsea in the summer of 2015 and should be in goal on Wednesday night. Both Diego Godin and Juanfran were rested at the weekend against Sevilla but should both come back into the team with the former partnering Stefan Savic in central defense and the latter taking his position at right back with former Blue Filipe Luis playing left back. I see Simeone drafting Thomas Partey back into the team to partner Koke in central midfield in order to add some steel against the power of both Kante and Bakayoko even though the Ghanaian began their weekend game on the bench. Any chance of us seeing Fernando Torres is very unlikely with the Spaniard not even considered for the bench at the weekend so Angel Correa should be back to lead the line on Wednesday having been rested at the weekend with the trio of Antoine Griezmann, Lucas Vietto and Yannick Carrasco playing just behind. One thing Antonio Conte will be drumming into his team is how effective this Atletico team is so much so that they don’t need a ton of chances to score as Sevilla found out at the weekend with the Madrid team scoring two goals from just 3 shots on target.
Oblak; Juanfran, Savic, Godin, Luis; Partey, Koke; Carrasco, Griezmann, Vietto; Correa
Last 5 matches: WWWDW
Injuries: Augusto Fernandez (Knee) –Out.
Alvaro Morata vs. Diego Godin
Morata is gradually beginning to justify his hefty price tag with six goals from six appearances. Being back in familiar territory might give him an edge over the veteran Uruguayan.
N’Golo Kante vs. Koke
Koke is to Atletico Madrid what Cesc Fabregas is to Chelsea and as such must be stopped because with him pulling the string from midfield Atletico will have a field day, and who better to stop him than Kante.
Davide Zappacosta vs. Yannick Carrasco
If Conte chooses to start with the Italian then I dare say he’s going to have one of his most difficult opponents on his hand. The Belgian Carrasco is as fast as he’s dangerous and on his day can prove a handful for any defender.
Antonio Conte will have been drumming it into his team how important this fixture is to qualification and he’s likely to set his team up to soak up the pressure in the early exchanges and see what comes out from it. Atletico Madrid allowed Sevilla to have most of the ball at the weekend but still ended up with all three points at the end due to their ruthless efficiency in front of goal, but should they allow Chelsea that luxury then might be made to pay if our attacking are in the mood. A draw from this match won’t be such a bad result considering we have another big match waiting for us at the weekend. Until you hear from me again, please make sure to Keep The Blue Flag Flying High, Blues!
Thumbnail image courtesy of: The Football Bible
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