Stamford Bridge, the fortress of Jose Mourinho and his men in blues, will encounter one of the most anticipated footballing battles of this season during the return leg of Champions league semi final. The 1st leg ended on a dull 0-0 draw, where Atletico Madrid failed to breach Chelsea’s wall of resistance. Jose Mourinho came to Calderon with a plan and went with executing most of it, successfully. His plan was to defend the match without conceding a goal and to manage an away goal in the last few minutes, but his plan got a roll-over when Petr Cech had to be substituted after dislocating his shoulder in the early minutes of the match followed by John Terry’s injury, which was another major pushback for his plan.
Many of the neutral fans, who were awake to witness this clash, complained about Mourinho’s tactics as to how he ruined the game of football by parking the bus. The first thing which fans should understand is, not all matches can be won by playing attacking or beautiful football and making all the players move forward on the word go. An away match, with an attacking football strategy, against a team whose players can make the opponent run like dogs behind them, could have killed Chelsea’s plan for finals. Jose came up strongly to setup a wall, against which Atletico with 65% of ball possession, couldn’t find a way to goal. Diego Costa who had a remarkable season with his club, scoring 27 goals for them, failed to create much space against John Terry and Gary Cahill.
Jose went with a 4-3-3 formation against Diego Simeone’s men where Ramires was given the duties on the left flank to nullify Raul Garcia and Willian on the right to backtrack and counter Koke if needed, with Torres upfront. Lampard, Luiz and Mikel were set in a deeper role. The team was set up from a defensive angle and to provide a counter attack on each mistake of the opponent. So how did that plan go? Defensively Chelsea were at their best as usual but when it came to counter attack they could do little on that because Atletico made very few mistakes and were very compact in their midfield resisting any pressure which came from the Blues. End result, a goalless draw which just might be enough to execute the 2nd leg plan for the Pensioners.
But what happens on the return leg? With Hazard back from the injury, Jose Mourinho’s men have to come out of their shells. Lampard and Mikel will not feature on the team sheet as they picked up a yellow card which made them unavailable for the 2nd leg. Though Terry is recovering fast and might end up playing to everyone’s surprise, but still a major doubt looms about his featuring on the final team sheet. The good news is, Branislov Ivanovic will be back in the squad.
So let’s throw a light on Jose Mourinho’s likely tactics for this clash. The key to this match is how the sides will be setup and Jose just might go with a 4-2-3-1 formation yet again. Considering Terry’s absence, Azpi and Ashley Cole may be seen in the full backs’ role, Ivanovic and Gary Cahill will hold on to the centre back duties. If Terry plays, Azpi and Ivanovic will be put on to their full back duties just like the first leg.
A look at the defensive midfield, Luiz and Ramires will be the holding midfielders who can nullify the runs made my Garcia, Tiago. Gabi will be missed from Atletico Madrid’s point of view considering his immense work rate. With Hazard back from injury, the attacking midfield looks a bit better. Jose might go with his usual trio of Hazard, Oscar and Willian with Schurrle likely to be used as a super-substitute and his major trump card. Hazard and Willian breaking from the left and right flanks with Oscar producing some through balls through the middle can create some sweet music for Diego Simeone’s men. The team will be mainly set up on a counter attacking approach with with a bit more attacking predominance as compared to the first leg. Talking about the upfront role, though Torres showed some confidence in his runs and dribbles at his former home ground, Mourinho is most likely to rely on Eto’ to sneak a goal or two past Thibaut Curtois. Demba Ba and Torres could feature later on as a substitute.
Substitutions may turn out to be that moment of this semi final match for both the sides which could lead them to Lisbon. Schurrle if not given a starting role, might be the key substitution to break Atletico. With Petr Cech out from the sheet for this season, Chelsea have to end this within the limited time of play. If the match ends up with a penalty shootout, Atletico will have clear edge of making it to Lisbon, because when it comes to Schwarzer vs Courtois, the latter will be an out and out winner of the duel.
Expectations from this match: With over 40000 blue supporters backing their players, the screamers, the chants from the shed end and with The Special One on the sideline, visiting team will have a tough night to win this match out from Stamford Bridge.