A trip to Monaco awaits Chelsea, but not just for this year’s Champions League Group Stage draw. This season, the UEFA Super Cup will be played in Monaco, with the opponent being the winner of last season’s Europa League, Atletico Madrid.
This becomes a very unique opportunity for both clubs to win an early trophy, with the last meeting between the two clubs being back in 2009 during that year’s Champions League group stages.
The interesting thing about the matchup is that it’s a reunion of sorts. Loanee goalkeeper Thibault Courtois will be eligible to play against us, while we will also get a chance to say hello to former midfielder Tiago Mendes, who is also a member of Atleti’s squad.
Another reunion sees Fernando Torres face the club of his youth and the club that he was named captain of at the age of 19. I may be wrong, but I do believe that this will be the first time that he has met his former club, as he was injured for the four times that Liverpool met Atletico Madrid while he was in their employ.
Atleti will give us our first chance to see the side against a top side in Europe with Atleti having the strength and expectations to compete for the Champions League places in Spain this season.
Atletico Madrid are a ball playing side. However, they also have the ability to play direct.
As evidenced by last season’s Europa League and by the first two La Liga matches this season, Atletico are capable of playing with the typical Spanish passing rhythm, but are not afraid to get the ball wide and put in crosses as needed. Few could argue that Athletic Bilbao may have had a better overall side last season in the Europa League final, but the argument could be made that they were outplayed soundly in that final with Atleti playing a very solid defensive game to stop the rhythmical game of Bilbao.
This season Diego Simeone has a different issue. In the first match, he employed a three at the back formation because of the number of center backs that he has at his disposal and the lack of cover at full back behind Juanfran, a converted midfielder, and Filipe, an attacking wing back.
If anything, it makes them unpredictable and adaptable to the style of their opponent, though the 4-2-3-1 that he played against Bilbao last week was much more effective than the 3 at the back they played against Levante.
Atletico’s clear danger man is Falcao, who might be the best striker in Europe at the moment.
Falcao is one of the most clinical strikers you will find, as he links play well, but his biggest strength is his ability to stick the ball in the net in any way imaginable. Atletico have set up to supply him well, with three classy wingers, Adrian, Cristian Rodriguez, and Arda Turan to get the ball to him in the box to finish chances.
If there is a weakness to Falcao’s game, it’s one that is purely genetic. He’s only about 5’10” and though strong in the air, you wonder how he would deal with taller, physical, mobile center backs. It’s interesting to note that he did manage one headed goal in the 4 meetings that that they had with Real Madrid and Barcelona, who both have taller CBs to compete with Falcao in the air.
Against us, he will have the likes of David Luiz and Gary Cahill to contend with, but his main threat will be his ability to play off the ball and make clever runs.
This will be our first chance to see the progress of Courtois up close.
When purchased at 19, he was viewed to be the long-term replacement for Petr Cech. I would argue that his loan deal was very good to him because he’s been able to wrestle the number one position from Sergio Asenjo who was viewed to be the replacement for the departing David De Gea.
Since we’ve never really gotten a chance to see Courtois play live, we will get a chance to see how his footballing education has progressed away from Chelsea.
On a side note, I’m surprised that he will be allowed to play against us. Usually, an agreement is made that the loanee can’t play against his parent club, though there is a possibility that we’ve waved that clause.
Final thought: This match will be massive for Torres, and I think this could be one that increases his confidence even more.
As I mentioned, due to injury, Torres has never featured against the club that he joined as a boy from Madrid. This will be the first chance that he will get to show how he’s progressed as a player since moving to Liverpool back in 2007.
My belief is that Torres will have mixed emotions, but in reality, he will want to show the qualities that made the supporters fall in love with him and essentially made him into the figurehead that he was before leaving.
I only have four things because I must confess that I’ve seen very little of Atletico over the last two seasons. However, we must not lose sight of the fact that this is a chance to win a trophy early in the season, even if it is simply a one-off match.