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Wednesday 20:00: Chelsea v Atletico Madrid
BT Sport 2
Chelsea have made huge strides since Thomas Tuchel took the helm at the end of January, but they don’t blow teams away and could face a nervy night when Atletico Madrid come to town on Wednesday. Chelsea are yet to taste defeat under Tuchel and have put themselves in pole position to qualify for Europe next season. They also looked poised to qualify for the quarter finals of the Champions League after a huge win in Madrid – an outcome that appeared highly unlikely when the draw was made in December.
However, Tuchel’s side have failed to score in two of their four games at Stamford Bridge and appear to struggle against teams that sit deep and defend, and that is exactly what Atletico Madrid will do.
Diego Simeone’s side have built a reputation for being one of the most cautious and rigid sides in Europe and they won’t adapt that game plan too drastically even though they are trailing on aggregate. Atletico have seen a ten-point lead at the top of La Liga whittled down to four in the space of six weeks after a disappointing run of four draws and one defeat in their last eight games.
They appear to have lost their nerves and Simeone will almost certainly set them up to stay in the tie for as long as possible, likely resulting in a cagey, low-scoring game that will probably end in a stalemate.
MORE TOP TIPS: Our 19/1 acca from the rest of Wednesday’s footy action
Neither Chelsea nor Atletico set the world alight at the weekend and it is unlikely that anything will change by Wednesday night. Both sides slipped to disappointing 0-0 draws that dealt a blow to their league ambitions, but their lack of efficiency in front of goal goes far beyond last weekend.
Chelsea are yet to score more than two goals in a game under Tuchel despite playing six teams in the bottom half of the league and one Championship outfit in the FA Cup.
They have now been held to three scoreless draws in ten league games under the German but have only conceded twice in 12 games in all competitions since he took over from Frank Lampard. Atletico Madrid, meanwhile, have score one goal or less in five of their last nine games in all competitions and have failed to score more than twice in the same period.
There is no plausible reason for either side to suddenly discover a newfound potency in front of goal in the most important game of their seasons so far and it is likely to be another low-scoring game at Stamford Bridge.
Atletico didn’t have a shot on target in the home leg of this tie in an overly negative display of defensive football, but they will have to have a go at some stage on Wednesday.
Chelsea, on the other hand, have hardly faced any shots on target since the arrival at Tuchel, but they have faced four shots on target in two of their last three home games, while their opponents have managed four shots or more in four of their last eight games.
Atletico won’t go for broke in the first half on Wednesday night, but they will have to force the issue eventually and could put Chelsea’s goal under significant pressure.
In any case, Atletico may find it easier to play away from home considering there have been almost the exact same amount of away wins as home victories this season due to an absence of supporters.
Suarez was anonymous in Atletico Madrid’s first-leg defeat to Chelsea, but the former Barcelona player’s goals this season are the main reason that Simeone’s side are where they are.
Suarez has scored vital goals against Athletic Bilbao and Real Madrid in recent weeks to prevent Atletico’s faltering title challenge from becoming an unmitigated disaster and he will surely be the one that Simeone and Atletico look towards to drag them back into this tie.
The Uruguayan averages almost three shots per game for Atletico in the league and averages roughly 1.5 shots on target per game. He will most likely try his luck more often than usual as Atletico probe for an all-important equaliser on aggregate.
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