Chelsea FC: 4 Objectives to a Blues Victory over Atletico Madrid
Other than dealing with the Football Association, Jose Mourinho has had a prodigious last 72 hours.
Sunday's victory at Anfield kept Chelsea's Premier League hopes alive and Petr Cech, John Terry, Samuel Eto'o and Eden Hazard resuming their first-team training (h/t Goal) is sure to bring a grin to the Portuguese's face.
Yet, the manager’s smile would not have lasted too long, as there are still at least 90 minutes left to navigate in this season's UEFA Champions League campaign.
The first leg of the semi-final highlighted Chelsea and Atletico Madrid's ability to defend and one might easily surmise more of the same is impending at Stamford Bridge.
Neither side will want to concede but—in the same breath—neither side will be craving an extra 30 minutes and/or penalty-kicks, either.
The Blues, elevated off their Merseyside triumph, will exude confidence at the Bridge and will need all their collective faculties about them to reach the cup final in Lisbon, Portugal on 24 May.
What then does Mourinho's side need to complete to reach their aspiration of silverware?
Glad you asked...
Objective 1: Continue Chokehold on Diego Costa
The paramount objective for Jose Mourinho is to keep his defensive shape.
The first leg was an exercise in defensive prowess. The ball stayed in front of the Chelsea defence for the most part and even with a substitute goalkeeper in Mark Schwarzer, the home side was kept relatively quiet.
If the Blues have any hope of winning the tie, they cannot concede at home; figuring to score twice against Atletico is brave.
If there is a winner without spot-kicks, 1-0 is the sensible scoreline. The 0-0 result in Madrid did Chelsea no favours in term of tiebreakers so preserving a clean sheet is of the utmost importance.
Where do Atletico find joy?
The Spanish international has become one of Europe's hottest strikers and expecting he can be tamed for 180 minutes of play is hopeful at best. That said, Chelsea's defence has demonstrated to be preeminent in the Premier League (see Sunday at Liverpool); with the addition of bastion John Terry to the ranks the Blues will be that more impenetrable.
If Mourinho can keep Costa to a minimum, the rest of the game plan should follow suit.
Objective 2: Keep Stamford Bridge in the Game
Stamford Bridge can be—in a word—erratic.
Depending on the situation the ground can be buzzing, likewise the mood can be subdued by expectation, worry or abject boredom.
European nights seem to bring something extra to SW6, as Paris Saint-Germain may attest. The crowd must keep their built-up energy from the first minute to the last—whether 90 or 120.
Atletico are not the most frightening side in Europe. The Real Madrids and Bayern Munichs of the world induce fear in the hearts of many but Atletico are a side one needs to break down. In that respect, supporters will come to the Bridge with an aura of confidence.
Should Jose Mourinho use the tactic which worked on Sunday (counter-attacking), the crowd must stay patient and give the players the boost they need.
If Mourinho's men play the customary role of "attacking home side," Stamford Bridge's faithful need to lift their side rather than become annoyed or frustrated.
Similarly, the players must give Stamford Bridge something to cheer about—which leads to the next objective...
Objective 3: Make Thibaut Courtois Work
Chelsea gave their on-loan goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois just two shots to save in the reverse fixture—for one of the best goalkeepers in the world, the Blues essentially made Courtois a spectator.
The likelihood of beating Atletico Madrid's defence with two shots on goal is slim to none. Chelsea must shoot on sight—if not quality, then quantity.
It seems the Blues habitually want to walk the ball in the goal. In a Champions League semi-final—against the current top side in Spain—that situation is improbable at best.
The midfield needs to shoot, the striker(s) needs to be aggressive and defenders on set pieces need to be clinical as well.
If Los Rojiblancos come to the Bridge and play similarly to the way Chelsea did at the Vicente Calderon, the Blues will need to be more than the probing team they often are. Shots on target and en masse must be the objective offensively.
Exceptional goalkeepers can have bad days at the office but they need to be tested frequently.
Objective 4: Should the Blues Score First (and Early), Go for a Second
One hates to do this but—if you would—travel back to Chelsea’s 2008-09 UEFA Champions League semi-final against Barcelona.
The Blues did at the Camp Nou in 2009 what they did in Madrid last week.
The semi-final's first leg was a rather boring 0-0 draw and the Blues were criticised for employing "anti-football” tactics.
In Chelsea's home leg, Michael Essien struck the Blues' 2008-09 Goal of the Season, putting Chelsea up 1-0 over the Catalan giants.
As the game developed there were four solid penalty claims which Chelsea had brushed aside and in the 93rd minute, Andres Iniesta launched a shot into Petr Cech's goal scoring the decisive away goal.
Bearing this in mind: If the Blues manage an early goal against Atletico, they must find another goal to pair with it.
Jose Mourinho's ethic is simple: "What we have we hold," and it has worked well considering, but Blues' supporters cannot bear a repeat performance twice in five years.
The pain is still too much.
Finding the ever-elusive second goal would do three things:
No. 1: Lighten Stamford Bridge’s atmosphere
No. 2: Make Atletico predictable
No. 3: Allow Mourinho's defence one mistake—and who here hates mulligans?
Thus, a second goal—at either 1-0 or 1-1—would be crucial to seeing the Blues through to Lisbon and a clash with Real Madrid.