Atletico Madrid vs Chelsea preview, betting tips and predictions: Atleti to edge tight tactical battle with Blues
Atletico Madrid to win in both halves @ 9/4 with SkyBet
Atletico Madrid to win to nil @ 9/4 with SkyBet
The Draw @ 11/5 with SkyBet
Diego Costa’s heart must have skipped a beat when he saw the Champions League Group Stage draw, as it pitted his current side Chelsea against his past and possibly future employers Atletico Madrid. But any possibility of a striker-related narrative was killed off when Antonio Conte didn’t name him in the 25-man European squad for the Blues.
Chelsea come into this game in confident mood having flexed their muscles on the opening night, albeit against Azerbaijani perspective whipping boys Qarabag. The 6-0 win showed their ability to attack and the quality of their squad, but it goes without saying they will face a much tougher defensive side in Atletico Madrid, arguably the most solid in Europe. Chelsea have thrived under Antonio Conte when able to keep their shape and break at pace with the likes of Eden Hazard and Cesc Fabregas as chief creators. Playing the ball into Alvaro Morata, who then brings others into play or turns himself, gives them a focal point.
But the worrying thing for Chelsea is they have been caught out against teams who play them at their own game. Crystal Palace, Manchester United and Burnley have all had joy playing that way, and Atletico are the masters of it. Rarely don Filipe Luis, a former Blue, and Juanfran leave their positions, meaning there is very little space in behind the defence, while Saul Niguez, Koke and Antoine Griezmann are the men charged with creating opportunities. Neither side will go to attack in this game, because if they do, there is the fear of getting caught out, meaning it will likely end in a low scoring affair. Home advantage, their organisation and the quality of Griezmann should help Atletico edge it; they need a win after drawing on Matchday 1 at Roma.
Chelsea will play wingbacks and their main hope will be to help Alvaro Morata is not isolated up against Diego Godin. But with Luis and Juanfran not getting forward very often, both Marcos Alonso and Victor Moses could take a risk and double up with the men in front of them, Hazard and Pedro. The pair of them may find more joy out wide because the centre of the pitch will be extremely overloaded.
Key battle: Saul vs N’Golo Kante
With so many players likely to clog up central areas, the likely result will be a slow tactical battle. Whoever makes the biggest impact in an attacking sense will probably give their team the advantage. Saul will be one of Kante’s toughest opponents, because the Frenchman is brilliant at tackles and interceptions, but Saul is more effective without the ball.
His intelligent runs and ability to finish when in the box are what makes him stand out, as opposed to Cesc Fabregas who prefers to create chances for others. Kante will have to watch Saul because he links up so well with Griezmann, but if he can keep him quiet it will help Chelsea to get a foothold in the game.