By, Ayodeji Itasanmi (Twitter: @aryhorblueblood)
Stamford Bridge/December 5, 2017
It’s hard to know how Antonio Conte approaches this game with Atletico Madrid still in with a chance at qualification even if it’s a tall order. Conte has stated countless times that he doesn’t get to sleep whenever Chelsea end up losing a game so losing this game is out of the question even if our progression to the next round is already assured. Having won the reverse fixture back in September Conte will be looking to do the double over Atletico and he certainly has the players to do that in order to keep his team’s positive momentum going.
It’s all square between these two teams in terms of results of the previous six times they have met with both teams getting two wins apiece and two draws in between. Goals make football exciting to watch and there has been no shortage of goals between these two with just one game failing to provide one – the Champions’ League semi-final first leg back in the 2013/2014 season. Atletico are still waiting for their first win at their home stadium against Chelsea with both of their victories coming away from Spain. That is a statistic Antonio and his team must be wary of with them having a chance of winning the group with a win at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday night. Chelsea remain the only team to have beaten Atletico this season and they will be up for some measure of revenge on Tuesday for sure. Bring it on!
With such a short turn over time between games these days rotation will surely be top most on Antonio Conte’s mind for sure. He took off the trio of Eden Hazard, Cesc Fabregas and Andreas Christensen which might mean they will be starting again on Tuesday but these days you can read anything into a substitution with Conte so we may have to wait and see. Victor Moses proved on Saturday why he’s so important to the team giving Matt Ritchie hell on the right side of our attack and with that performance it’d be hard for the coach to sit him down for the game on Tuesday night. Slowly but surely Danny Drinkwater is beginning to show the reason we paid so much money to Leicester City for his signature on transfer deadline day. He was phenomenal at the weekend but I think he will start this game from the bench with Bakayoko likely to take his place. Gary Cahill should also be coming back into the back three with Antonio Rudiger likely to be the one that gives having the whole of our last two matches against Swansea and Newcastle, but with David Luiz likely to be missing until the new year Andreas Christensen might also need the time to refuel for the battles ahead. Alvaro Morata has been doing it all alone since the last international break with Michy Batshuayi coming back early with an ankle problem, but the Spaniard might finally get his chance to rest with the Belgian back among the subs for Saturday’s game. I personally think Marcos Alonso needs a rest after playing virtually all of our games until now and what better time to give him the rest, and give Kenedy the chance to flex his muscle against one of Europe’s big teams, than now with not a lot riding on this match. I’ll also like to see Courtois given Tuesday night off with Caballero between the sticks and Eduardo on the bench even though the Swansea game would have felt like his time off with him having almost nothing for the duration of the game. But for his latest injury set back, this would have been the perfect time for Charly Musonda to make his Champions’ League debut.
Caballero; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Cahill; Moses, Fabregas, Kante, Bakayoko, Kenedy; Hazard, Batshuayi.
Last Five Matches: WWDWW
Injuries: Michy Batshuayi (Ankle) –Doubt; David Luiz (Muscle) –Out.
That loss to Chelsea back in September seemed to throw Atletico Madrid off their game a little bit as they won just two of their next 9 matches –a couple of 1-0 wins against Celta de Vigo and Deportivo la Coruna- drawing the remaining seven which included their unexpected draws against Azeri champions FK Qarabag in the Champions’ League, but they are beginning to rack up the wins now with four on the bounce for the loss of just one goal while scoring 12 themselves. Diego Simeone started the season playing his favoured 4-2-3-1 formation but now his team is playing in a more straight forward 4-4-2 and that seem to be working a treat for them and that’s likely to be how they line up at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday night especially as they have to win to stand a chance of qualifying. With the injuries to Simo Vrsaljko, Ghanaian Thomas Partey has been deputizing at right back but he’s likely to move to his more conventional position in midfield with the Croat now back in first team training even though he wasn’t in the team at the weekend. Jan Oblak should continue in goal protected by Diego Godin and Stefan Savic. Filipe Luis and Simo Vrsaljko will likely complete the back four. Thomas Partey will most likely partner Koke in central midfield with Saul and Carrasco on either side with Antoine Griezmann and Kevin Gameiro up front. They are likely to come out all guns blazing which might play right into our hands.
Oblak; Vrsaljko, Savic, Godin, Luis; Carrasco, Koke, Partey, Saul; Griezmann, Gameiro.
Last Five Matches: WWWWD
Injuries: Juan Fran (Hamstring) –Out.
Michy Batshuayi vs. Diego Godin
With Antonio Conte continuing to emphasise the need to rotate his to accommodate the mammoth fixtures before the end of the year he might be forced to throw Batshuayi into the thick of the action and if that’s the case then the veteran Uruguayan will have a different kind of problem than the one posed by Morata in the first leg.
Cesc Fabregas vs. Thomas Partey
Cesc Fabregas is in the world of his own this early part of the season with him churning out impressive display after impressive display but he may find the going tough against this tough tackling Ghanaian, who is not one to shy away from a tackle as Hazard found out in the first leg. Fabregas is as important to our play as much as Partey is to Atletico’s.
Andreas Christensen vs. Antoine Griezmann
Andreas Christensen is surely learning on the job but in Griezmann he’s sure to find a different kind of customer to what he’s used to with the petite Frenchman, more often than not, tending to drift all over the pitch to pull the central defenders out of position and leave room for others to score. Christensen, as well as his partners in crime, must be alert for the entire duration of the game.
With the trio of Bayern Munich, Juventus and Real Madrid likely to finish second in their groups, and potential opponents for Chelsea in the next round, suddenly finishing second in our group doesn’t seem like a bad thing all of a sudden, but then finishing second opens the prospect of facing either Barcelona or PSG. Bottom line is there is no easy games in the Champions’ League and to be the best you must beat the best. Hopefully we will be going into our match at the London Stadium on the back of a positive result against Atletico Madrid on Tuesday and hopefully we’ll be one of the seeded teams when the draws for the Champions’ League draw is made. Until the weekend, Keep The Blue Flag Flying High!
Thumbnail image courtesy of: Mirror UK
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