How Atletico Madrid Will Line Up Against Chelsea

Nick DorringtonSpecial to Bleacher ReportApril 29, 2014

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 22:  Cesar Azpilicueta of Chelsea marshalls Diego Costa 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 Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Diego Simeone has a practically full-strength squad to pick from for the second leg of Atletico Madrid’s Champions League semi-final away to Chelsea on Wednesday.

Chances were at a premium during the first leg in Madrid last week. Chelsea were content to sit back, limit space between the lines and repel crosses into the area, and Atletico lacked the necessary imagination to break them down. The final score of 0-0 left the tie neatly poised for the return in London.

It has been a fantastic season for Atletico, statistically their best ever in league play, as per AS. With the Primera Division title within touching distance, an appearance in the Champions League final would top off a remarkable campaign.

The togetherness of the group has been a key part of Atletico's success, and it is therefore unsurprising that Simeone has, as per Marca (in Spanish), chosen to take his entire squad to London.

Atletico kept their 20th clean sheet of the league season in their 1-0 win away to Valencia on Sunday, as per Soccerway. They have the best defensive record in both La Liga and the Champions League and will again look to use that solidity as a base to work from on Wednesday.

Right-back Juanfran was red-carded late on in the victory over Valencia, but he is available for the trip to Stamford Bridge. He will take up his place in Atletico's regular back four alongside Miranda, Diego Godin and Filipe Luis. Thibaut Courtois, on loan from Chelsea, will line up between the sticks.

Simeone does have one vital absentee in midfield, with club captain Gabi missing out through suspension after picking up a yellow card during the first leg. Gabi brings energy and leadership on the defensive end, but he has also, as per, provided 11 assists in all competitions.

Former Chelsea midfielder Tiago Mendes, who was superb in the second leg of Atletico’s quarter-final victory over Barcelona, is set to take Gabi’s place. He will line up alongside Mario Suarez in the centre of the park.

Emiliano Insua, Koke and Juanfran are all, as per UEFA, just one booking away from missing the final should Atletico progress.

Arda Turan looks set for a return to the starting XI for the first time since the beginning of April, having now fully recovered from the groin injury that has limited his participation in the interim. Following two consecutive substitute appearances, he now appears ready to start.

Simeone has identified the Turkish international's ability to work between the lines as key to puncturing the Chelsea defence, as per AS (in Spanish).

Deadly Duo? Diego Costa and Raul Garcia
Deadly Duo? Diego Costa and Raul GarciaGonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

David Villa is expected to join Diego Ribas on the substitutes' bench, with Raul Garcia, scorer of the solitary goal in the weekend win over Valencia, lining up just behind Diego Costa up front.

Costa was a relatively quiet figure in the first leg, but he hopes to have more space to exploit in the return. "It'll be different from the game at home," he explained at a press conference announcing Atletico's summer friendlies in the United States and Mexico, as per Marca. "They'll need to open up a bit."

Atletico seem confident of their chances coming into the second leg and will take it as a good omen that Wednesday's referee, Nicola Rizzoli, was also the man in charge when they defeated Chelsea's West London neighbours Fulham in the 2010 Europa League final, as per Soccerway.


Predicted Atletico Madrid XI: Thibaut Courtois, Juanfran, Miranda, Diego Godin, Filipe Luis; Arda Turan, Tiago Mendes, Mario Suarez, Koke; Raul Garcia; Diego Costa.

Courtesy of Bleacher Report Tactics Board