Atletico Madrid vs Chelsea
For the first time in the whole of 2020/21, there are question marks against Atletico Madrid.
Yes, they still lead La Liga and are in control of their own destiny but a run of one league win in four matches – including a 1-1 draw at Levante before a 2-0 home defeat against the same opposition three days later – means they prepare to meet Chelsea in the Champions League amidst genuine concern they are wobbling.
Diego Simeone will hope that wobble doesn’t become something more permanent or else both Real Madrid and Barcelona will close in on the race for the title.
So, will the focus away from league duties help Atletico or could they do without the added distraction of Europe as they aim for a first league title in seven years?
Of course, this tie will not be played in Spain due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Instead, the venue will be the Arena Naţională in Bucharest – a venue with happy memories for Atletico as it was where they beat fellow La Liga side Athletic Bilbao to win the 2012 Europa League.
Although not strictly a home tie, Atletico are unbeaten at home in Champions League knockout matches going back to 1997 – a 3-2 loss to Ajax in the quarter-final second leg that sealed a 4-3 aggregate defeat.
Belgian international Yannick Carrasco is a doubt for the La Liga leaders after suffering a post-traumatic injury of the left leg musculature.
The versatile 27-year-old has starred this campaign, particularly in a new left-wing back position, but he may now need to sit out several games.
While Los Rojiblancos club have enjoyed plenty of Champions League highlights in recent seasons, reaching the quarter-finals or better in five of their last seven Champions League campaigns – all under Simeone – Chelsea have lost their last four ties at this stage.
They are showing signs of improvement under new boss Thomas Tuchel, though, and have turned on the style in the competition so far this term, most notably at Atletico’s rivals Sevilla in December.
Their 1-1 Premier League draw with Southampton on Saturday continued their unbeaten run since Tuchel’s arrival and a meeting with Atletico will prove his biggest test to date.
During that game, the German boss showed he is not afraid to make tough decisions when things are not progressing as he likes – as shown by the fact he replaced youngster Callum Hudson-Odoi despite the winger having only come on at half-time.
After being critical of the player’s body language, the Englishman is unlikely to be granted a starting berth in Bucharest.
A month ago, this would have been an Atletico banker. Recent form suggests it will be much closer.
These sides have met seven times in their history – all since 2009.
That first contest was in the group stages of the competition when Chelsea ran out 4-0 winners at Stamford Bridge as Salomon Kalou netted twice and was joined on the scoresheet by Frank Lampard (and an own goal). That defeat actually prompted the departure of then Atlético coach Abel Resino with future Watford boss Quique Sánchez Flores taking over.
The return game in Madrid a few weeks later ended 2-2 and was a thriller as Sergio Aguero and Didier Drogba both grabbed doubles.
Their most important clashes, however, have both gone the way of Atletico.
A lightning first-half hat-trick from Radamel Falcao – who later had a season on loan at Chelsea – saw them blow away the West Londoners in the final of the 2012 UEFA Super Cup.
Two years later, Atletico won 3-1 at Stamford Bridge in the semi-finals of the Champions League following a goalless draw in Spain. The scorer of Atletico’s second that night was Diego Costa who moved to Chelsea that summer.
Their most recent meeting, in the 2017/18 group stages, was a 1-1 draw in London when a 75th-minute own goal cancelled out Saúl Ñíguez’s 56th-minute opener.
Overall, both sides have two triumphs apiece with a further three draws.
|Atletico Madrid vs Chelsea||Over 2.25 @ 2.19|
|February 24, 04:00|
The SBOTOP Champions League betting odds make Atletico slight favourites for this one.
1X2 odds price them @ 2.53 with Chelsea @ 2.92 while available Asian Handicap bets include Atletico -0.25 @ 2.21 and Chelsea 0.00 @ 2.11.
Simeone’s side are known for being resolute but are hardly frugal in front of goal either so, if you fancy a fair few goals, how about over 2.25 goals @ 2.19 and total goal 2-3 @ 1.93?
For a repeat of the 1-1 draw last time they met, the correct score odds are @ 5.20.
My *** bet is over 2.25 goals @ 2.19.
|A SHORT EXPLANATION ON HOW OUR () BETS ARE WORTH:|
|= €20 (Highly confident)||= €10 (CONFIDENT)||= €5 (SOMEWHAT CONFIDENT)|
Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.
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