Atlético not at their best, but will still stifle
La Liga leaders Atlético Madrid welcome a resurgent Chelsea under the guiding hand of new head coach Thomas Tuchel to the Metropolitano Stadium in a finely poised Champions League tie. A draw, especially one with an away goal, would represent an excellent result for the London outfit, and would put them in pole position for the return leg. The hosts are not in the greatest of form at present, and have conceded an uncharacteristically high amount of goals for a team renowned first and foremost for being difficult to break down. Nevertheless, they top Real Madrid and Barcelona for a reason. Read our preview here:
Still life in Suárez yet
Written off as being on the proverbial scrapheap by some pundits, veteran Uruguayan striker Luis Suárez has well and truly proved the doubters wrong, and is a major reason why Diego Simeone's men top the division by three points, crashing in 16 goals from 20 total appearances to date. However, he has yet to register a strike in the elite European competition, and it remains to be seen how much change he'll get from Chelsea's central defensive trio, who will split and cover wider areas in behind the marauding wing-backs. Alongside him will be João Félix who, whilst only half as productive in front of goal in 2020/2021 as his teammate, has the ability to rove in between the lines and bring the opposition's backline forward to meet his threat. This could in turn create space for Ángel Correa to exploit on the counter, bringing in the midfield runners from deep in the process
Whilst Mason Mount has strengthened his claim to being the first name on the teamsheet, other positions are still certainly up for grabs. There's a possibility that Tuchel might favour Olivier Giroud up top from the outset, favouring his physicality to put pressure on a less than steadfast Atléti defence; alternatively, he could plump for the opposite, bringing him on after the pacier Tammy Abraham, ably supported by Mount and Timo Werner, has stretched the back four, in an attempt to batter them into submission. Equally as important will be just how effective the wing-backs can prove to be. Marcos Alonso is particularly adept at joining the attack from out wide, but Callum Hudson-Odoi's credentials going towards his own goal haven't yet been tested especially thoroughly. Either way, much of the responsibility could fall on Abraham to step up his performances in the Champions League, and there is no room to hide during the knockout phase.
The 2-0 reverse at home to Levante will have understandably knocked Simeone's confidence ahead of the crucial first leg. However, he has proven over the years to be a master at geeing up his players for the showpiece games, and moreover, conducting a strategy that squeezes the very most out of the talent at his disposal. Yes, Chelsea are in the ascendancy under new management, but arguably, only their game against Tottenham Hotspur on paper is one that they wouldn't have expected to win that they then triumphed in. Tougher tests lie ahead domestically, and as Liverpool found out last season in Europe, Atlético are amongst the toughest on the continent. bet365 have odds of 3.00 for a draw.