Verdict: Total goals under 2.5
Best odds: 8/13
Chelsea will play host to Atletico Madrid at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday evening, as the two teams clash for the second time in the Champions League round of 16. The Blues won the first leg played in Bucharest by 0-1, courtesy of a goal by Olivier Giroud, having controlled the ball for 59% of the contest and preventing the hosts from taking a single shot on target.
Chelsea parted ways with Frank Lampard in January and replaced their former midfielder with Thomas Tuchel, and it has been an interesting period for the team since. They are still to lose a single match in any competition under the command of the former Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain boss.
Chelsea’s form is still perhaps not as good as that makes it sound, though. Of their last six matches in all competitions, Tuchel’s boys won three and drew three. It started with a disappointing 1-1 draw away to Southampton, then came the win over Atletico, a goalless draw at home against Manchester United, a Merseyside double as they beat Liverpool at Anfield 0-1 and Everton at home 2-0, and they eventually played another goalless draw, this time away to Leeds United.
In the Premier League, Chelsea sit in fourth place at the moment, and given the tightness in that part of the table, they face a tough battle to keep that spot in the remaining part of the season. They must be wary of West Ham who have gathered only three points less, Liverpool and Everton (5) and Tottenham Hotspur (6), with some of these teams having a game in hand.
Still led by Lampard, Chelsea won Group E in this season’s Champions League campaign, ahead of Sevilla, Krasnodar and Rennes.
Tuchel will be without the services of midfielders Jorginho and Mason Mount, who are both under yellow-card suspension. Further more, striker Tammy Abraham (ankle) and centre-back Thiago Silva (thigh) are major doubts.
Edouard Mendy is likely to keep his place in goal ahead of Kepa Arrizabalaga. Without Silva, Tuchel will likely put captain Cezar Azpilicueta, Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger in a three-man back line, with Ben Chillwell and Reece James providing width as wingbacks. N’Golo Kante is likely to play alongside Mateo Kovacic in the middle of the park, but it will be interesting to see how the attacking line will be formed.
Giroud started alongside Timo Werner in the first leg with Mason Mount just behind, but the likes of Hakim Ziyech, Kai Havertz and Christian Pulisic will all be hoping to be named in the starting XI this time.
Chelsea have been changing managers rather frequently in recent years, but this is Diego Simeone’s 10th season in charge at Atletico Madrid. The controversial Argentinian has already led the team to the La Liga title once (2014), and he seems to be on course to repeating the feat at the moment. The Rojiblancos top the Spanish top-flight, four points above Barcelona and six above city rivals Real.
But Atletico’s recent form hasn’t been great, and it’ll have to improve quickly if they intend to lift the trophy at the end of the season. Their last-six run in all competitions saw them lose 0-2 at home to Levante, then the first leg 0-1 to Chelsea. The drop appeared to have been arrested in the three games that followed – a 0-2 triumph away to Villarreal, a 1-1 draw at home in the Madrid Derby, and a 2-1 win at home over Athletic Bilbao, but then came the disappointing goalless draw away to Getafe, where the hosts played with 10 men for the last 20 minutes but Atletico failed to take advantage.
Atletico were in Group A in the Champions League, and it was by no means an easy one. They finished second to Bayern Munich, above RB Salzburg and Lokomotiv Moscow.
Unlike Tuchel, Simeone has the full squad at his disposal. Right-back Kieran Trippier has served his 10-week suspension and centre-back Jose Gimenez has recovered from a muscular problem, which means there are two more defenders to choose from.
The names of the starting XI will mostly depend on the shape the coach goes for. Striker Luis Suarez and goalkeeper Jan Oblak are certain to be on the list. Trippier and Renan Lodi could play either side of Gimenez and Stefan Savic in a back four, with Koke, Marcos Llorente and Saul Niguez in midfield. Joao Felix is likely to play behind Suarez and Angel Correa upfront.
Atletico will have to take some kind of an attacking approach to this match, having a deficit to overcome, though that isn’t quite in the nature of team under Simeone. Chelsea have also been looking more sound defensively than in attack, and there shouldn’t be too many chances.
Verdict: Total goals under 2.5
Best odds: 8/13