Chelsea hold a slender first-leg advantage against Atletico Madrid thanks to Olivier Giroud’s stunning goal in Bucharest three weeks ago
Thomas Tuchel has the opportunity to achieve something this evening that no Chelsea head coach has done since 2014. And that is to guide a Blues side into the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
The last Chelsea boss to do so was Jose Mourinho. The Portuguese steered the club into the last four during the 2013/14 campaign only to then come up short against a Diego Costa-inspired Atletico.
It is the Spanish side the Blues must overcome tonight. A wonderful Olivier Giroud goal in the first leg of the Round of 16 tie has put Chelsea in control but they must now follow that up with a repeat performance at Stamford Bridge.
Tuchel will be without Thiago Silva and Tammy Abraham due to injury, but the rest of the first-team squad is fit and available. So who should Tuchel turn to?urn to?
Edouard Mendy has gone 507 minutes without conceding for Chelsea. The last opponent to beat the Senegal international was Takumi Minamino during the Blues’ 1-1 draw against Southampton on February 20.
So there is no reason for Tuchel to take the 29-year-old out of his side against Atletico. Kepa Arrizabalaga, who was omitted from the Spain squad this week, should be named on the bench.
Given Chelsea’s fine defensive record over the past month, the back three of Cesar Azpilicueta, Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger must again be deployed.
Who Tuchel decides to use in the wing-back roles is arguably his biggest quandary ahead of the contest at Stamford Bridge. In the first leg, Callum Hudson-Odoi operated on the right and Marcos Alonso the left. And Chelsea got the result they needed.
But with a lead to protect and hopefully build on this evening, it would be no surprise to see Tuchel go with the more defensively-sound duo of Reece James and Ben Chilwell.
Atletico Madrid’s Argentinian coach Diego Simeone attends a training session at the club’s training ground in Majadahonda on March 16, 2021, on the eve of the UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg football match between Atletico Madrid and Chelsea.
Diego Simeone and Atletico Madrid make Stamford Bridge decision ahead of Chelsea clashfootballlondon
Jorginho is suspended having collected his third yellow card of the Blues’ Champions League campaign in the first leg. As is Mason Mount. That makes Tuchel’s midfield rather easy to predict.
N’Golo Kante will start and will be partnered by Mateo Kovacic, who was an unused substitute for the weekend’s goalless draw with Leeds United.
Timo Werner has yet to recapture his goalscoring touch but will almost certainly start once more.
And given the indifferent form both Christian Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech are in, Tuchel may opt to include Callum Hudson-Odoi in his frontline.
Giroud started and scored the crucial winner in the first leg but Kai Havertz has stepped into the number nine role in the past two games and performed to good effect.
Whether the German is fit enough to star three games in quick succession following a month out injured remains to be seen. But if Tuchel deems the 21-year-old ready to do so, then he should get the nod over Giroud.
Predicted Chelsea side vs Atletico Madrid: Mendy; Azpilicueta; Christensen, Rudiger; James, Kante, Kovacic, Chilwell; Hudson-Odoi, Havertz, Werner