Chelsea will attempt stamping their authority on the Champions League last-4 tie with La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid on Tuesday night when they visit the Spanish capital city.
The ‘Blues’, which advanced into the semi-finals courtesy of a breathtaking 2-0 comeback against Paris Saint-German in the previous round, will be happy to be playing tonight’s away leg first at the Estadio Vicente Calderon.
Having reached this stage of the competition on seven previous occassions, two of whom came as the Stamford Bridge outfit manager, Jose Mourinho downplays the impact of the first leg being away from home.
“It is difficult for a Champions League semi-final to be decided in one game”, Mourinho opined during his pre-match media briefing on Monday evening.
“It happens sometimes but it is difficult to have a result in the first leg that kills the emotion of the second leg.
“I don’t know if there is an advantage really. I like to play without thinking too much about it being the first leg away or the second leg away. The first game is here and we know Atletico Madrid will do everything to win the game, but it doesn’t matter too much where you play the game”.
Atletico, managed by ex-Argentina international Diego Simeone, is a club all too familiar with the Portuguese boss, owing to his three-year previous spell at neighbours Real Madrid.
Mourinho’s side came top in the first three meetings between Real and Simeone’s Atletico in the Primera division before losing last season’s Copa del Rey to the same club.
Atletico, the only side left in the Champions League to not have lost a match and to have won every game at home (including the 1-0 last-8 win over Barcelona), were victorious in the Europa Cup, same year (2012) Chelsea lifted their maiden European Cup. When they both met in the Super Cup the following year, the Los Roji-Blancos prevailed.
“I am not here to talk about the qualities of Atletico Madrid”, Mourinho responded, when asked for his thoughts on his next opponents.
“I did that with my players yesterday, I do it today and will do it tomorrow, and it is with my players I have to share my feelings about Atletico. Of course no team arrives in the Champions League semi-final without being a very good team and they are no exception. Atletico is a team that we respect, study and analyse.
“I have watched Atletico play a lot of times and from the moment we got them in the draw I’ve watched them play with better eyes, and I’ve studied them a lot to try to be ready to make my players understand what Atletico is”.
Tonight’s occasion holds special memories for Spanish striker Fernando Torres, a sensation at youth level who broke into the Atletico first team aged 17 and was captain at 19. With Samuel Eto’o out due to a minor knee irritation, Torres may well be lining up against his most previous clubs this week, with next Sunday’s visit to Anfield on the card.
“I am not saying that Fernando is going to start, but he never hides. And every day we talk about Spanish football and he is a real Atletico supporter, and I have no doubts that the minutes he is on the pitch tomorrow, he is going to try to do everything for Chelsea like the fantastic professional he is,” said Mourinho.
However, the ‘Special One’ wants to take every game one at a time ahead of a busy week for the Set London club, who are yet in the race for the Premier League title. Chelsea visits Madrid on Tuesday, play at Merseyside league table toppers on Sunday before hosting Atletico at the Bridge, in what has been described as another crucial moment in the club’s title ambition.
“We are lucky to be involved in the Champions League and we don’t need to think about the Premier League and what is going to happen. We only need to think about the big game tomorrow, added Mourinho.
“If people want to speak about the Premier League now there are 19 other teams in England. Chelsea tomorrow is the Champions League and we are only speaking about the Champions League.
“It is a Champions League semi-final against a team I know well, and I think every player and every manager wants to play this game”.