The blues held the colchoneros to a scoreless draw on Tuesday night in Atletico Madrid’s first Semi-Final appearance in the European Cup in 40 years. Last time at this stage of the competition they faced off against the mighty Celtic. Behind a heavy Argentinian influenced squad and the likes of the legendary Luis Aragones, they managed to reach the final on a 2-0 aggregate score after two legs of physical play including a Home leg at the Vicente Calderon (Formerly the Manzanares Stadium) that saw 3 Atletico players get sent off.
This time around, they faced off against the West London side who has become an all too familiar regular in the late stages of the prestigious tournament. Mourinho as many expected, fielded a very defensive side. El Niño Torres was practically left up front alone with minimal support from the ex Shaktar Donetsk magician Willian. Lampard and Ramires although listed as attacking mids were found to be in a holding position most of the match, concentrating more on helping out the bus parked in the back to repel the wave of Atletico attacks.
Much was in question before the match started. With two of the best defensive squads in the tournament including one (Atletico) that is considered by many to be the best defensive squad, who would control the game and pace? Atletico as well as Chelsea both enjoy a more tactical and counter attacking style than most of the European giants. One thing was for sure, this match would definitely live up to its physical hype and this was shown early when Diego Costa and John Terry got into a stare down match that would rival that of an old John Ford Western.
It was Atletico though that enjoyed a grand majority of the possession as Mourinho instructed his boys to hold and try to create opportunities on the counter. Both teams had only a number of small chances to score with some of the clearer opportunities coming from set pieces. In the end though it was a dull affair with several ramifications. John Terry and Petr Cech both suffered injuries that look to keep them out of action in the 2nd leg. Both sides also picked up several suspensions occurring on yellow card accumulations with the likes of the home grown and heart of the club, captain Gabi being suspended along with John Obi Mikel and Frank Lampard from the blues.
I expect a very different approach to the 2nd leg. Mourinho loves to play this kind of tie as we all have seen in the Champions League. Build an impenetrable defensive line and park the metaphorical bus in the away leg and go for high pressure and constant attacks in the home leg. One thing is for sure though, expect goals. I expect Chelsea will open themselves up a lot on the counter and los colchoneros are some of the best at creating something out of nothing.
The creative mind of Koke will be the x factor as he will need to create and find the seams to feed Diego Costa chances if they look to proceed to their first Champions League final since they last played in 1974 against Bayern Munich. Will their suffocating pressure that exemplifies the true nature of a team that would die on the battlefield for their leader (Simeone) give them that one chance they need to keep the dream alive? We will find out next Wed when the battle continues at the Bridge.
-Disgruntled Sports Fan