Preview of the Champions League semi-finals
Atletico Madrid v Chelsea – Tuesday, 7:45pm (Irish time)
Atletico Madrid, this seasons surprise package – both in La Liga and on the continent – welcome Chelsea to the Vicente Calderon on Tuesday night. Chelsea come into this game on the back of their first ever league defeat at Stamford Bridge under Mourinho. That defeat came on Saturday against the team rooted to the bottom of the table, Sunderland. Atletico Madrid beat relegation-threatened Elche 2-0 on Friday night in La Liga.
Diego Simeone led his team through a straight-forward group phase where to won sixteen of the eighteen points available. FC Zenit, FC Porto and Austria Vienna were no match for Atletico who only conceded three goals in their six group games. They then beat AC Milan 1-0 in the San Siro before destroying them 4-1 in Madrid.
In the quarter-finals Atletico faced La Liga rivals Barcelona. The first-leg was a 1-1 draw at Camp Nou, and Atletico won the return game 1-0, although in truth they could have won by two or three at least.
Atletico have no-one suspended for the first-leg but both Diego Costa and Arda Turan may not feature for the full ninety minutes. Costa, their hitman, and Turan, the creator from midfield, are still recovering from injury. Turan has also chipped in with three goals in the CL so far this season. Costa is their top scorer with seven goals so far followed by Raul Garcia with four goals. Garcia has also been contributing goals aplenty from midfield in La Liga in what must be one of his best-ever seasons.
At the back Atletico have Miranda who is ever-present in the CL this season and Diego Godin as his partner in the centre. Koke and Gabi have also played in all ten CL games this season keeping last summers signing, the Brazilian Diego, on the bench for the most part.
David Villa has proved to be a great bargain for Atletico, signing for approx €5m from Barcelona. Villa was unlucky not to bag a couple against his old club in the second leg of the quarter-finals.
This will be the defining week in Chelsea’s season. Jose’s return will either be a massive success or a huge disappointment for Roman Abramovich depending on their results in their next three games (Atletico (A – CL), Liverpool (A – PL), Atletico (H – CL)).
Chelsea won their group with twelve points, two ahead of Schalke. FC Basel were third on eight points and Steaua Bucharest were bottom with three points. Mourinho had his team performing solidly at the back, conceding only three goals in their group.
In the second-round Chelsea traveled to Turkey to face club-legend Didier Drogba’s Galatasaray. Along with Wesley Sneijder, Drogba was signed to help Galatasaray compete with the best in Europe. They managed a 1-1 draw with Chelsea in that first-leg but the Blue’s beat them 2-0 in the return game in London.
PSG, another club trying to make it’s impression on the European stage met Chelsea in the quarter-finals. Ibrahimovic, Cavani, Silva and co were unlucky to go out on away goals after beating Chelsea 3-1 in Paris but losing 2-0 in the second-leg.
Chelsea are without Branislav Ivanovic for the first-leg of the semi’s. It will be Ivanovic’s first game to miss in the CL this season. Other ever-presents for the Blue’s have been midfielders Frank Lampard and Oscar. Chelsea have struggled with their front men in all competitions and the CL is no different. Torres, Ba and Eto’o have all scored just three goals each in this CL campaign.
The star of the Chelsea show this year has been Eden Hazard. The Belgian wing-wizard is doubtful however for the first-leg at least. Hazard is recovering from injury and certainly won’t manage a full ninety minutes this week.
Prediction: Atletico to progress after a very, very tight tie.
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