Chelsea (3) 2-0 (0) Atletico Madrid: three things we learned as Blues reach European top eight

Chelsea put on an inspiring performance in their second leg against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League round of 16 at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday, rightly reserving a place in the quarter-finals of the elite club competition of the ‘UEFA.

A nice counterattack, the creation of summer signings Kai Havertz and Timo Werner executed by another player who arrived at the club before this season, Hakim Ziyech, in the 34th minute, and another ended by substitute Emerson Palmieri in the final seconds. of the match, in addition to Oliver Giroud’s strike in the first leg, proved more than enough to see a very flat Atletico side.

Chelsea better all the way

Although there were (short) periods of time when the visitors spent time with the ball in the opposing half of the field, there was not an aspect of the game or an area of ​​the pitch where they could properly match the ball. Blues. The whole fight was completely under the control of Thomas Tuchel’s men, who, having a significant advantage from the first leg, dosed their energy wisely, defended well, dominated midfield and always found ways to threaten Jan Oblak in the goal of Atletico. .

Luis Suarez and Joao Felix have done very little to worry Cezar Azpilicueta, Kurt Zouma and the particularly brilliant Antonio Rudiger. Off wide, Reece James and Marcos Alonso made the likes of Renan Lodi and Kieran Trippier as lower level opposition, but the difference between the two teams was most noticeable in the mid section.

We’ve seen enough of Koke, Marcos Llorente and Saul Niguez over the past few years for anyone to reasonably doubt their quality, but they have been completely outdone by N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic, who have always been helped by Havertz or Ziyech giving up. back from the front.

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Werner’s runs here and there, but especially when he retreats to the left as he did so effectively for RB Leipzig, were often too much for Stefan Savic and Jose Gimenez, stretching Atletico defenders to the breaking point.

The general impression towards the end of the game was that the Blues could have hurt the La Liga team more, if they wanted or needed it.

Tuchel does what Lampard couldn’t do

Frank Lampard has been rightly praised for the success of his place in the Premier League top four at the end of last season, especially following the departure of Eden Hazard in 2019 and the transfer ban which has imposed on the club that summer. He had to be content with the players he had, and he did it right, pushing the likes of Zouma, Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham and helping them grow.

But in 2020 expensive and renowned names were added to the squad as more than £ 200million had been spent, and while some managers clearly see this as a good thing, it has proven too difficult for Lampard to manage such stars. Werner and Havertz in particular seemed to have failed for a long time, but Tuchel’s arrival at the helm in January was a game-changer. The German also appears to have revitalized Kovacic and Kante, as well as Rudiger.

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Chelsea now look like the same team on the pitch as they do on paper, a rare case in star-packed clubs, and it only shows that the appointment of the former Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain boss was a blow to the eye. shine from the board. He hasn’t always had the best of times commanding players like Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani in the French capital, but the experience has obviously done him good.

Either way, Chelsea appear to be on track to return to the top of English and European football.

Atletico disappoints

The Rojiblancos have never been an attacking style team under Diego Simeone, and the Argentine has been their head coach for a decade now. There was success around that time of course, including the 2014 La Liga title and two Champions League finals, but it was always done through relentless energy and fighting for every ball anywhere. on the field, associated with impeccable defensive discipline, which obtained them. there rather than dazzling football with the ball. But surprisingly, there were far too few to be seen on Wednesday.

It was only to be expected that they would struggle to get a result against a Chelsea side who haven’t lost a game in over two months and only conceded two goals in 12 previous matches.

Atletico needed their most talented players – Felix, Suarez, Saul, Llorente, to name a few – to produce a spark of inspiration in order to return to a tie after losing the first leg , but none came. The flame of these players has been expertly extinguished by the home team.

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Felix was probably the only player in red and white who tried to make something happen and put the Chelsea defense (and goalkeeper) to work hard, but perhaps that was enough to hint that there could be a good player somewhere in the 120 million euros Portuguese youngster, and no more.

To further hurt their chances, Savic was sent off in the 82nd minute for nudging Rudiger in the ribs during a positional fight inside the box before a corner kick.

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The decision made by referee Daniele Orsato may seem a bit harsh – there was no real intensity in the blow and Rudiger certainly made more of it than there was, probably after taunting the Montenegrin defender , but Savic should have known better than to allow himself to do so. react that way. Orsato was close and gave the red card on his own, and VAR officials saw no reason to intervene.

The season is far from over for Atletico, and their attention now turns entirely to the national stage, where they lead the title race ahead of Barcelona and Real Madrid, and they will have to consider elimination from the League of Nations. champions as one less distraction.

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