Atletico Madrid's Consistent Defence Makes Life Hard for Returning Hero Torres

Paul WilkesFeatured ColumnistApril 23, 2014

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 22:  Fernando Torres of Chelsea is closed down by and Diego Godin and Gabi of Club Atletico de Madrid during the UEFA Champions League Semi Final first leg match between Club Atletico de Madrid and Chelsea at Vicente Calderon Stadium on April 22, 2014 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

It has been seven years since Fernando Torres played a match at the Vicente Calderon, and as expected he received a warm reception from the supporters. "Fernando is a lad who loves this club, his club," said Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone at the pre-match press conference, via Sid Lowe of The Guardian.

"He is from here: deep down he is one of us. He will always be an atletico wherever he is, whoever he plays for," added the Argentine in an attempt to play on the striker's heart strings.

With the way Jose Mourinho set up his Chelsea side, it was always going to be a difficult evening for the former Liverpool forward. He was chasing lost causes and feeding off scraps from the very first minute.

A three-man midfield of David Luiz, John Obi Mikel and Frank Lampard meant they were determined not to be out-muscled by Gabi and Mario Suarez. Diego Simeone's team were equally keen to show their counterparts that they were in for a fight.

An early coming-together between John Terry and Diego Costa ignited the game, when the defender cleared the ball by approaching from behind. The Brazilian-born forward was unhappy with the challenge and walked directly toward the centre-back with his glare firmly fixed on the former England captain.

He barged into his shoulder, and although Terry fronted up to Costa, he didn't look entirely comfortable with the situation.

Then, Luiz pushed Raul Garcia into Petr Cech, the goalkeeper was jumping for a cross and had his legs swept from beneath him. His awkward landing saw him immediately signal to the bench that he couldn't continue.

Both teams were resolute in their defending, and there were few clear-cut chances for either side with Atleti overall the more creative.

It shouldn't have come as too much of a surprise, the two clubs have the best defensive records in their respective leagues, and Los Rojiblancos have the meanest defence in the Champions League this season.

The consistent unit of Juanfran, Miranda, Diego Godin and Filipe Luis has been the reason for their impressive displays throughout the season. Atletico have looked more vulnerable when any of them has been missing.

The talented Thibaut Courtois had little to do here against the club that actually owns him, but he will surely have a bigger part to play at Stamford Bridge in a week's time.

With Koke and Garcia playing very narrow, it was a congested midfield area. Chelsea's wide men tucked in to make it five against five in the midfield battle, while simultaneously tracking the opposition's full-backs.

The work rate of Brazilians Willian and Ramires was absorbing, as their average positions at half-time illustrate, via the FourFourTwo Stats Zone. It was a disciplined performance against Luis and Juanfran, ensuring they were rarely left free to supply Costa.

At the other end of the pitch, Torres was running tirelessly, but with little reward. He had just one effort on goal and struggled to hold the ball up for his midfielders to join him.

The fact he committed more fouls than anyone else on the pitch shows how much he wanted to influence the game and his clear frustration at the lack of service.

He completed six out of 10 runs at the opposition defence. Perhaps he saw Juanfran as a potential weak link, as he positioned himself around the converted winger.

With little to go on, it was a tiring return to his former stomping ground. Club captain Gabi had said: "This will be an emotional moment for Fernando." He was proved correct.

"I wish him the best, but I hope he doesn't have his night," said midfielder Koke before the match. It wasn't his night, but it certainly wasn't due to a lack of effort.