Champions League: Why Chelsea can ‘do an Atletico Madrid’ all the way to the final in Istanbul
Chelsea have conceded just two goals in 12 games under Thomas Tuchel. It all has a very ‘Atletico Madrid’ feel to it, and as they prepare to face Diego Simeone’s side at Stamford Bridge, Blues fans could be forgiven for dreaming of a season that ends with silverware if their defensive record continues at such an impressive rate.
Luis Suarez (C) tries to control the ball in front of Chelsea's German defender Antonio Rudiger
Chelsea take on Atletico Madrid in the Champions League last-16 second leg on Wednesday. One team’s bullish defensive displays have led to five straight clean sheets as part of a tactical revolution which has made them one of the toughest in Europe to break down – the other team is Atletico.
Thomas Tuchel is working miracles at Stamford Bridge – so far. Taking over from Frank Lampard with the team ninth in the Premier League, Chelsea now have their top-four fate in their own hands given they sit within the promised land and have a healthier goal difference than fifth-placed West Ham, who are three points behind with a game in hand.
Chelsea are not yet firing on all cylinders up front under Tuchel, but they are barely conceding. In the 12 matches the German has presided over so far, the Blues have let in just two goals. A goal every six games, a ratio that is unlikely to remain so low, but still a marked improvement on the 27 shipped in during the 29 games Lampard was in charge for earlier this season.
Andreas Christensen has cut a revitalised figure, Antonio Rudiger has emerged back from the wilderness too, while captain Cesar Azpilicueta has been given a new lease of life as the right-sided centre-back, and given this clean-sheet run was achieved without Thiago Silva, the Brazilian’s return to the fold means competition for places could improve their defence further in the coming months.
If you look at Chelsea’s recent results, there are narrow wins, a few goalless draws, while they are yet to score more than three in one game under Tuchel.
It all has a real ‘Atletico’ feel to it. In Diego Simeone’s eight full seasons in charge so far, Atleti have finished in the Liga top three every time along with Barcelona and Real Madrid.
Under Simeone they have never outscored either Barca or Real in a league campaign, but have produced the best defensive record in all-but two campaigns.
La Liga’s top three (In order of position, Goals For-Goals Against)
2012-13: Barcelona 115-40 / Real Madrid 103-42 / Atletico Madrid 65-31
2013-14: Atletico Madrid 77-26 / Barcelona 100-33 / Real Madrid 104-38
2014-15: Barcelona 110-21 / Real Madrid 118-38 / Atletico Madrid 67-29
2015-16: Barcelona 112-29 / Real Madrid 110-34 / Atletico Madrid 63-18
2016-17: Real Madrid 106-41 / Barcelona 116-37 / Atletico Madrid 70-27
2017-18: Barcelona 99-29 / Atletico Madrid 58-22 / Real Madrid 94-44
2018-19: Barcelona 90-36 / Atletico Madrid 55-29 / Real Madrid 63-46
2019-20: Real Madrid 70-25 / Barcelona 86-38 / Atletico Madrid 51-27
This helped Atletico win the league in 2013-14, and while they lead a tight race this season with 11 games remaining, they could well come unstuck at the last-16 stage of the Champions League for the second time in three seasons.
Der FC Chelsea gewinnt gegen Atlético Madrid
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Chelsea lead the tie by one valuable away goal, and so long as they score once at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night, Atletico would need to score three times against a side who have not conceded that many since Tuchel took over.
Atletico have often ground their way through knockout campaigns in Europe, and while that could well be the case again, they face a side very much capable of replicating Atleti’s journey to the 2015-16 Champions League final by ensuring that defence is the foundation of success.
Chelsea are far from favourites for the Champions League, but under a manager who reached the showpiece game last season, they are five games away from sealing a spot at the final in Istanbul, dreaming of silverware in a season which looked as though it was petering out.
“Every team that plays a second leg in the round of 16 can dare to win the competition, there is no doubt about it,” said Tuchel
“Every team in the last 16 can win the competition, this has been proven in the last years and this is how we respect the competition, it is what we are in for, to win this game. It does not help to think more than this one game.
Chelsea's German head coach Thomas Tuchel (R) embraces Chelsea's Danish defender Andreas Christensen (L) at the end of the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Chelsea at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on March 4, 2021. (
Image credit: Getty Images
“If I am aware of bringing silverware, of course. I am here to win games, push the team and to ride the momentum that the players are, we are competing as a team and if we can win consecutive games, this is my job. You are never totally safe as a coach, this is a given, I won silverware in France and it came to an end so I can't lose my head about this.
“I just repeat that for me, myself, I feel very happy here and grateful to be part of this club. It feels very natural to be here and that is a big part of the things, I like how the team plays, the more we compete together and this is what we will do.
“We are playing every three days, winning games consecutively. I am here to get my job done, the players to get theirs done, get them in the right mindset, flow and momentum and I am looking forward to the decisions. Hopefully it can continue like this.”