Chelsea wrap up their Champions League group this week, as they face Atletico Madrid in the final European clash before Christmas. The Blues have nothing to worry about on the qualification front, as a 4-0 win over Qarabag sealed their progress to the next round. However, Antonio Conte will have his side focused on finishing top of the pile, which could be vital in the next round. The way the Champions League is shaping up this season, the Premier League champions would likely have PSG and Barcelona among their three options for last 16 opponents if they finish second. Obviously that isn’t ideal, and not just because it would likely result in yet another trip to Paris.
Chelsea’s hopes of progression in this competition rely on recording a strong finish to this group. Roma are at home to Qarabag, meaning Atletico Madrid have next to no chance of going through. That also means that the Italians are heavy favourites to take three points in their final game and jump top of the group, unless Chelsea can claim a victory at Stamford Bridge this week. When you take into consideration that Conte is yet to have a truly successful European campaign as a manager, there’s a lot riding on this game for the home side, so can they repeat their impressive win in Madrid in the reverse encounter?
Team News: Chelsea set for Defensive Switch to Claim top Spot
Chelsea went to Anfield recently with a switch to their usual big game formation. Conte has moved to a 3-5-1-1 formation for meetings with top sides, using it to trouble Man City and win against Tottenham. It was also deployed in the first meeting with Atleti, which worked perfectly against the La Liga side. We fully expect that approach to be wheeled out once again here, denying space to the visitors. That may make this a very cagey game. However, that is something that they’ll need to get used to if they are to progress in this competition.
Atletico are expected to line up in a 4-4-2 system for their meeting with Chelsea, with former Blue Fernando Torres set to start up front. The Spaniards don’t have much width in their side, but they do have Antoine Griezmann in attack to cause problems. He struck from the penalty spot in the meeting in Madrid, and the Frenchman will be a thorn in the side of Chelsea’s defence. However, their system does appear to play in to the hands of any kind of three-man defence that the Blues can play, as they’re likely to be outnumbered across all the main areas of the pitch.
Atletico Madrid Form
Atletico Madrid remain shy of the title race in Spain, being overtaken by Valencia in the push for top spot. As things stand, they face a battle just to return to the Champions League next season, and they’re already set for a drop into the Europa League this term. While their results in La Liga have been solid but uninspiring, things have been going much worse for Diego Simeone’s side in continental competition.
They head into this trip with just one win in the Champions League this term. That victory came at home to Roma last time out, which kept them in contention for a place in the next round. However, that wasn’t enough to give the Spaniards a serious chance of qualifying, as they need a miracle result for Qarabag away to Roma to get through this group. Having dropped four points against the group minnows, it’s easy to see where Atleti have gone wrong in this campaign.
Chelsea v Atletico Madrid Head to Head
Chelsea’s victory at Atletico earlier this season was held up as one of the great performances by an English side in Europe. It was a big defeat for the Spaniards, as they lost their opening Champions League game at their new stadium. That victory was a small dose of revenge, given that Chelsea have lost out to Atletico in a Champions League semi-final and the UEFA Super Cup in recent encounters.
- Atletico Madrid 1-2 Chelsea, Sep 2017
- Chelsea 1-3 Atletico Madrid, Apr 2014
- Atletico Madrid 0-0 Chelsea, Apr 2014
- Chelsea 1-4 Atletico Madrid, Aug 2012
- Atletico Madrid 2-2 Chelsea, Nov 2009
- Chelsea to win – 11/10 with Bet365
- Chelsea to win 1-0 – 7/1 with BetVictor
Chelsea come in to this game as 11/10 favourites with Bet365 to take all three points this week. The visitors are coming in to this game as the outsiders, priced at 12/5 with Ladbrokes to boost their slim qualification hopes with a victory this week. Meanwhile, the draw is 5/2 with Betfred, which is a tempting price in a match that we’re fully expecting to be very close. However, a point doesn’t really suit either side, so will we eventually get a winner?
Chelsea’s system may just tactically stump Atletico, especially if the Blues crowd can push them forward. Atletico’s back four could be pulled out of position by ingenuity in attack from the Pensioners, while having three men in the centre of defence and midfield should see the Premier League champions dominate this game. The Blues need to get over the line to have any chance of making a strong run in Europe, as they simply aren’t going to have the momentum to take on one of Europe’s elite next. Conte needs a more straightforward draw in the next round too, so he’ll be pushing his side to get a victory here. We’re backing a Chelsea win at 11/10 with Bet365.
We can still see this game being a close one, with chances likely to be slim for either side. We don’t expect a high scoring encounter, and we think there’s a lot of value in backing a 1-0 win for the hosts, at 7/1 with BetVictor.