Atletico Madrid had the best defence in La Liga last season, conceding just 27 goals in 38 league games. Diego Simeone’s side are one of the most difficult to break down in world football, and this is the task facing Antonio Conte’s Chelsea when they visit the Spanish side at their new home, the Estadio Metropolitano.
It won’t be difficult for Chelsea to work out what their opponent will do when they pay them a visit for the second Champions League Group C fixture, with the Madrid side likely to line up as they have done for much of the season already.
It might also be easy for Atletico to work out how Chelsea will set up, and this game is likely to be a battle between Conte’s 3-4-3 and Simeone’s version of 4-4-2.
Despite their different shapes, these two formations could lead to plenty of one on one battles across the pitch, and whoever comes of on top in these individual duels will play a big part in which way the result swings.
Alvaro Morata vs Stefan Savic
Two of the three goals Morata scored against Stoke came down the opposition right hand side. The most eye-catching of these was his impressive show of pace down the Chelsea left flank which left the defence trailing in his wake before he finished expertly past Jack Butland.
While it will be rare to find that type of space against Atletico, it may occasionally appear, and if the former Real Madrid striker can isolate Savic then there could be a real battle between the pair.
David Luiz vs Antoine Griezmann
This could be one of those nights where the Brazilian centre-back relies on his trusty side-kick and bona fide defender Cesar Azpilicueta to help him out, but should the Spaniard leave his centre back exposed then there could be some eventful passages of play involving Luiz and the nippy French striker.
Griezmann will be ably supported by another striker — probably one of the Argentine forwards Angel Correa or Luciano Vietto — but there’s no doubt who the current star of Simeone’s attack is.
Fernando Torres could appear against his old club from the bench, but the biggest immediate task facing the Chelsea back line, of which Luiz will be at the heart, will be the much coveted Griezmann.
Victor Moses vs Filipe Luis
Not the most glamorous of match-ups but it’s one which could be important as the game unfolds.
Brazilian left back Luis can do damage in attack but is primarily known for his defending. Getting the balance right will be important for the home side, while Moses will look to take advantage if he can manage to spring past the opponent on the counter-attack.
Atletico’s wider more advanced midfielders in their central four will also help support Luis, and whoever plays on the right of Chelsea’s attacking three will be there to aid Moses.
But the game of cat and mouse between the visitors’ wing-backs and the home side’s full backs will be two individual battles to look out for, as it will be the same for Marcos Alonso against Juanfran on the other side.
Eden Hazard vs Thomas Partey
Simeone uses two defensive midfielders, or No 6s as they now seem to be known, one of whom is 24-year-old Ghanaian Partey.
Hazard could return to the side for this game as the Chelsea manager looks to break down the stubborn opposition defence, but he may have to break through a defensive midfield block before he even gets to the centre backs.
Partey has been playing on the right side of said block, and he’ll be up against Hazard should he make an appearance.
The duel between the pair could play a big part in the success of their respective sides, as if Hazard is included he’ll be expected to be the man with the tricks and guile to find a way through.
The key battles are likely to emerge as the game progresses, but these are just a few to look out for as the teams line up from the off.
Atletico will be looking to win their home game in this tough group where two of themselves, Chelsea, and Roma will be battling it out for the qualification spots, but as usual their primary goal will be not to lose.
With a player like Griezmann up front, however, they are always set up to win as Chelsea face their first big test since returning to Europe as English champions.
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