Atlético Madrid are currently perilously close to the foot of La Liga, they recently sacked Abel Resino from the managerial hotseat after a poor start to the season, and in their last five games, the beleaguered Spanish side have scored just three goals and shipped an unhealthy nine, winning only one game. Meanwhile, north of Madrid, Chelsea sit atop the Premier League, boss Carlo Ancelotti has let a few smiles creep onto his normally sombre visage, and in the Blues’ last five, Drogba et al have bagged an almighty 18 and won four of those games in the process. Does anyone know the Spanish for, “We’re bricking it?”
Having neatly dispatched Bolton Wanderers at the weekend, Chelsea move on to Spain to turn their attentions to the Champions League, and Atlético Madrid are the next victims, ahem, opponents attempting to stop the well-oiled, relentless, and somewhat terrifying big Blue machine.
Since sending Resino packing, Atlético have appointed ex-Spain defender Quique Sanchez Flores to try and steady the ship and reverse the club’s dismal start to the season. Despite boasting big names including Diego Forlan, Maxi Rodriguez, Simao and superstar striker Sergio Aguero, it is their defence which has let them down so far this campaign. Having conceded 14 goals in their five games on the road, it would seem as if travel-sickness is the biggest ailment blighting Atlético, but it is the constant chopping and changing of the backline which is a major problem, with 20-year-old ‘keeper Sergio Asenjo drafted into the starting XI to play against Chelsea in what would end up as an unhappy appearance.
On the other hand, Ancelotti has shown his hand and proved that he can afford to drop under-performing players and rest others, and still pick up results with Chelsea. In recent games, the likes of Branislav Ivanovic, Paulo Ferreira and Deco have all slotted in and around the core of the side with no qualms, each putting in eye-catching performances at times. With no substitutions made during Saturday’s trouncing of Bolton, Joe Cole, Daniel Sturridge, Florent Malouda, Alex and Juliano Belletti were all left kicking their heels, and could be in line for some minutes in Madrid.
But Chelsea do have some injury worries ahead of the European game, with anything up to six players who are rated doubtful. Salomon Kalou, Hilario, Ashley Cole, José Bosingwa, John Obi Mikel, and of course, Yuri ‘made of breadsticks’ Zhirkov, are those who could miss out. Didier Drogba returns from his suspension though, and should start.
The Champions League has been unfathomably kind to the Blues so far this season, with three wins from three games – even if some were more contrived than others – while Atlético are lying bottom of Group D with just a solitary point from their round of matches. They even allowed Salomon Kalou a brace in the previous meeting between the two sides a couple of weeks ago, when the Ivorian helped Chelsea to a 4-0 win.
The referee for the game will be Bjorn Kuipers, a 36-year-old Dutchman, who according to UEFA’s official press pack, is a keen mountain biker. Thanks UEFA.
With the Blues in such a rich vein of form, and Atlético the polar opposite, Chelsea should virtually clinch qualification into the knockout stages with a win on Tuesday evening. The only mystery ahead of the game seems to be just how many goals Ancelotti’s side will declare on.