Spanish League leaders Atlético Madrid were held to a 0-0 draw in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League Semifinal encounter with English title contenders Chelsea Football Club. Atlético were clearly the stronger of the two sides, with 69 percent of possession, 25 total shots, only four of which managed to hit the target (as per ESPN Score Center); however, Los Rojiblancos failed to break through Chelsea’s uncharacteristically defensive lineup.
The Blues, who were bombarded by Atlético’s attacking movements, played a very defensive style of Football that Jose Mourinho has in the past labeled as “nineteenth century football”, following Chelsea’s draw with West Ham United, who wielded a similar playing style. Chelsea never looked truly threatening on the attack, and seemed to be playing very cautiously from the first whistle to the final whistle.
The West Londoners were without several key players including, Samuel Eto’o, Eden Hazard due to injury, and Branislav Ivanović’s suspension opened the door for England International Ashley Cole to be restored to the starting lineup for the first time in three months. Atlético, on the other hand, had a nearly complete side, and were even allowed to use star goalkeeper, Thibaut Courtois, who is on loan from Chelsea. Chelsea’s injury woes grew early on in the match after Petr Cech had an awkward fall following an Atlético corner kick that forced him off the pitch with a season ending dislocated shoulder. Former Australian International, Mark Schwarzer, who was purchased from Fulham this past summer, stood in goal following Cech’s injury.
Chelsea’s best shot at goal came from Frank Lampard, who struck the ball from just outside the box; however, the shot lacked pace needed to find the back of the net, and was easily collected by Courtois. Atlético had several dangerous chances, the best coming from a Gabi free kick, which was struck low to the bottom corner, only to be forced wide by Mark Schwarzer. The 0-0 result left much to be desired by both sides and we will have to wait and see about what is to come until Wednesday, when the tie moves to Stamford Bridge.
SEMIFINAL SECOND LEG PREVIEW:
Both sides experienced good results going in to the matchup at Stamford Bridge. Atlético find themselves coming off of a 1-0 win over Valencia at the Mestalla, and Chelsea are coming off of an excellent 2-0 victory over Liverpool at Anfield. After Chelsea’s relatively poor performance last week, their result at the weekend is sure to be a morale booster, especially considering the fact that they saw off Liverpool even though they chose to field a weakened side. Atlético on the other hand had to work slightly harder at the weekend, managing to slip past a strong Valencia side off of a goal from Raul Garcia.
- Mark Schwarzer
- Gary Cahill
- Diego Costa
- Thibaut Courtois
- Arda Turan
The question remains; will Diego Simeone be able to guide Atlético to their first Champions League Final since 1974, or will Jose Mourinho’s tactical genius shine through to pull Chelsea to their second final in only three years? Last weeks 0-0 result at the Vicente Calderon means that the two sides have it all to fight for at Stamford Bridge in a tie that is far from over.
After Chelsea’s morale boosting win over Premier League Leaders, Liverpool, expect the Blues to make up for their poor performance in Madrid, and come out with the result necessary to propel them to the final against either Bayern Munich or Real Madrid. Stamford Bridge will be roaring, and its passionate crowd, along with Jose Mourinho’s tactical efficiency should push the West Londoners to a hard fought 2-1 victory over the Spanish League Leaders.