Two massive, yet also quite different challenges await Chelsea and Antonio Conte this week, and not just because they will be in two different competitions and in two different venues.
On Wednesday, Chelsea will be in Madrid, taking on Atlético at their new stadium. Atlético, who sit a surprising second in La Liga, have conceded just one goal in their last five games, once again living up to their reputation of being a team coached by Diego Simeone. Their last match, a 2-0 victory over Sevilla, was a perfect expression of their form, never once feeling threatened despite a lackluster first half before dominating the second over a fellow Champions League-level team, who also hadn’t lost a game before then all season.
Needless to say, Simeone & Co are confident, while also giving the occasion the proper amount of respect.
"We have been looking forward to the Chelsea game, they are a team full of extraordinary players. We will see what the team needs for this game. Each game is different and we can choose players who can make the difference."
-Diego Simeone; source: ESPN
Given that only the top two teams from the group advance to the knockout stages, getting any positive result here would be a tremendous boost for Chelsea.
Forced to grow from within thanks to their transfer ban, Atlético are operating like a well-oiled machine, ready to roll all others not named Barcelona or Real Madrid into submission. Former Chelsea tourist Filipe Luis explains.
“The team is very confident, the players know each other well. We know our movements perfectly because we have played a long time together.”
-Filipe Luís; source: Into the Calderon
The challenge of breaking down Atléti defence will then be followed by the challenge of keeping Manchester City’s attack at bay. Guardiola’s side are scoring at rather extraordinary rates these days, averaging over 4 goals in their last five games (22 in total, to be exact — Twenty. Two.).
One game at a time then. Should be ... fun.