UEFA Champions League 2017/18; Atletico Madrid vs Chelsea: Match Preview
Wednesday night's UEFA Champions League Group C match between Atletico Madrid and Chelsea will be of great interest for more reasons than just being a clash of titans.
The hosts will be playing their first ever Champions League match at their new Wanda Metropolitano home ground. They have won both matches played here since the ground was opened in a grand ceremony on September 16th, and will be keen to chalk out another win in the first piece of European action.
The night will be another opportunity for the home fans to continue building a similar atmosphere to what they had at Vincente Calderon at the new stadium. Wanda, with a capacity of 67,703 is significantly larger than Calderon's 54,907.
That means, it will take a while to get back to the same level of explosiveness, and a match of tonight's magnitude is an excellent opportunity to work towards this.
Amongst the crowd inside Wanda, will be Diego Costa, the bad boy who has just returned to Atletico after a successful three-year stint at Chelsea. The spell however ended on a controversial note after he was dumped through SMS by current Chelsea manager Antonio Conte in the summer, and refused to return for pre-season in protest.
He won't be playing, because he can't be formally registered until Atletico's transfer ban ends in January, but cameras will invariably be directed towards the striker at many points during the match.
On the pitch, Diego Simeone's side will be looking to get to winning ways after a goalless draw in the group opener at Roma. They are on a good run of form as they remain unbeaten in seven matches across all competitions this season (W4 D3).
In that period, they have kept four clean sheets, scored 12 and conceded just four. Antoine Griezmann will once again be the man to lead their quest for three points.
In place of Costa, Alvaro Morata will be leading Chelsea's attack. Morata's character is in stark contrast to that of his fellow Spaniard, but the fact that he is a former Real Madrid man will give him just as much hunger to win this one.
He comes into this one fresh from scoring a hat-trick against Stoke over the weekend and will be hoping to continue along the same vein.
Chelsea, themselves, are in blistering form, having shaken off the opening day league defeat to win six of their seven matches played since. Only a goalless draw with Arsenal a fortnight ago blots their perfect run in that duration. They beat Qarabag 6-0 in the group opener and are currently top of the log.
They are boosted by the presence of Thibaut Courtois who had an injury scare at Stoke. A former Atletico man, Courtois is often outstanding between the posts. Eden Hazard is also set to make a second start this season, having fully recovered from an ankle surgery he underwent before the start of the new season.
The Belgian is a big threat in midfield, and his runs going forward always keep defences troubled.
Atletico and Chelsea are the favourites to progress to the last 16 in a group that also comprises Roma And Qarabag, hence this tie is viewed as one that could eventually determine who qualifies at the top of the table.
Both are, however, aware that Roma is capable of pipping them to the second spot, and will thus be keen to collect every single point available.
Date: 27th September 2017.
Venue: Wanda Metropolitano, Madrid, Spain.
Time: 8:45pm Local Time/ 12:15am Indian Standard Time
This is the sixth meeting between the two sides. Atletico have won two of these meetings and Chelsea have won one, while two ended in a draw.
The most recent meeting was in April 2014, when Diego Costa scored two goals.
Expected Atletico Madrid starting XI: Jan Oblak, Diego Godin, Filipe Luis, Juanfran, Jose Gimenez, Koke, Saul Niguez, Yannick Carrasco, Gabi, Antoine Griezmann, Angel Correa
Expected Chelsea starting XI: Courtois, Gary Cahill, David Luiz, Cesar Azpilicueta, Marcos Alonso, N'Golo Kante, Cesc Fabregas, Timoue Bakayoko, Davide Zappacosta, Eden Hazard, Alvaro Morata