Chelsea jet off to Romania ahead of a mouth-watering last-16 Champions League clash against La Liga’s table-topping Atletico Madrid.
It will be Thomas Tuchel’s toughest test so far as Chelsea head coach, with Tuesday’s opponents three points clear with a game in hand at the top of the Spanish league.
The match is technically Atletico’s home leg despite the fact it is not taking place in Spain, with Covid-19 travel protocols seeing the game played at the National Arena in Bucharest.
Chelsea will be hoping they can bring a crucial away goal back to the reverse fixture set to take place in London in the middle of March.
The Blues will also be seeking to overcome Sunday’s disappointing draw against Southampton, where they were underwhelming throughout, while Diego Simeone’s side will enter this match off the back of a shock 2-0 home defeat to Levante.
Only one team can cure their disappointment on Tuesday. Here’s the lowdown:
Chelsea will be cursing their luck as veteran defender Thiago Silva will be left out of the squad, having missed Saturday’s trip to Southampton due to a muscular problem sustained in the Blues’ 1-0 win at Tottenham. Kai Havertz and Christian Pulisic are both doubts but could still travel, with both not hitting the glittering form expected of them so far this season. (chelseafc.com)
Tammy Abraham returned to lead the line on Saturday, having limped off the pitch against Newcastle last Monday and could start his third successive game against Atletico.
Despite the disappointing performance, Tuchel is not expected to make many changes from the side that lined up at St Mary’s, with Timo Werner and Mason Mount again likely to support the number nine.
One of Saturday’s only excellent performers was N’Golo Kante, who could get the nod over Mateo Kovacic alongside Jorginho who was rested for most of the match.
Marcos Alonso had a game to forget at the St Mary’s stadium but could again keep out Ben Chilwell who would certainly face a baptism of fire if he was to return to the starting eleven.
Callum Hudson-Odoi faced an odd Saturday afternoon, being substituted only 30 minutes after being brought on, and could return unless Tuchel opts for a more cautious approach in Reece James.
In the biggest news for Chelsea’s hosts, Atletico will be without the services of key defender Jose Gimenez, who suffered a recurrence of a muscular problem against Levante in La Liga on Saturday.
Stefan Savic missed the league contest through suspension but should replace Gimenez in the starting XI for this game, joining Mario Hermoso and Felipe in a defensive position.
Other players missing include winger Yannick Carrasco, who has a muscular issue, and full-back Sime Vrsaljko has lost his battle to prove his fitness, while Hector Herrera is also unavailable following a recent positive coronavirus test. (MARCA)
Concerningly for the Blues, Luis Suarez and Joao Felix are both available for selection and are expected to start in the final third.
- Atletico come into Tuesday’s clash having only won one of their last four games (W1 D2 L1)
- Chelsea remain unbeaten under Thomas Tuchel’s managerial spell so far
- Luis Suarez is joint-top of La Liga’s scoring charts with 16 goals in 20 games
- Diego Simeone’s side finished second in the group stage, only winning twice and were beaten 4-0 by Bayern Munich
Form (All competitions)
Chelsea – WWWWD
Saturday 20th February – Southampton 1-1 Chelsea
Monday 15th February – Chelsea 2-0 Newcastle
Thursday 11th February – Barnsley 0-1 Chelsea
Sunday 7th February – Sheffield United 1-2 Chelsea
Thursday 4th February – Tottenham 0-1 Chelsea
Atletico Madrid – WDWDL
Saturday 20th February – Atletico 0-2 Levante
Wednesday 17th February – Levante 1-1 Atletico
Saturday 13th February – Granada 1-2 Atletico
Monday 8th February – Atletico 2-2 Celta Vigo
Sunday 31st January – Cadiz 2-4 Atletico
Atletico Madrid – Oblak; Savic, Felipe, Hermoso; Llorente, Kondogbia, Koke, Saul, Lodi; Felix, Suarez
Chelsea – Mendy; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Rudiger; James, Kante, Jorginho, Alonso; Mount, Abraham, Werner
Atletico 1-1 Chelsea