Despite the similarities, the Champions League semifinal clash between Atletico Madrid and Chelsea isn’t one between two twins playing in different leagues, but of two clubs with a different agenda and way of getting things done, and two managers in Jose Mourinho and Diego Simeone who seem to be very much in control of what’s happening on the pitch.
Maybe I should state it a bit differently on Mourinho, who is once again in his less appealing mode, which means acting as if there is some higher power out to do him and his team some great wrong. He is disrespecting the press he loves to use and gloat through when things are going well, and overall has used too many of the same excuses after bad performances from his team to make him and what comes out of his mouth seem credible.
Like their hosts, Chelsea are better when they don’t need to be the team taking initiative. Their talent is in the second line, not in the central midfield, which will have an issue due to Nemanja Matic not playing, which means Ramires playing alongside David Luiz or Frank Lampard, or maybe Mourinho will surprise everyone by using all three of them and taking an extra careful approach at the Vicente Calderon.
More problems? Branislav Ivanovic is suspended, which means that there’s a chance Ashley Cole will be out of deep freeze, moving Cesar Azpilicueta to right back, his natural position which he hasn’t played in a very long time. The defense which most of the season seemed to be the best in the league isn’t as efficient and unbeatable anymore, although it has something to do with the midfield and the guys pressing high not doing their job.
Atletico Madrid have less to worry about. Arda Turan isn’t playing, but Adrian Lopez brings a bit more of attacking flair, even if he lacks the Turkish midfielder’s work rate. Atletico Madrid are undefeated in the Champions League this season and have won their last eight matches in the league. There seems to be a ‘nothing can go wrong’ period gracing them, which can be the most dangerous for the team.
Diego Simeone doesn’t let his players loose. This team is like no other in Europe this season with their ability to press and remained defensively and tactically disciplined for 90 minutes. While Mourinho and Chelsea have mostly won through individual brilliance on most occasions, it’s been a total team effort, highlighted by the scoring of the emerging Diego Costa, that has brought Atletico Madrid to the threshold of a championship and their first semifinal in 40 years.
How does it end? Atletico are the favorites, although pressing too wildly early on might be something they would like to avoid. Chelsea are playing for counter attacks and won’t mind going long minutes without scoring. Still, a small win for the Spanish side seems to be in the cards.