Jack Lang is expecting an open game when Los Colchoneros pitch up at Stamford Bridge...
"Atleti have come into a bit of form and have yet to lose on the road all season, claiming something from trips to play Roma, Valencia and Athletic Club, among others"
Chelsea v Atlético Madrid
Live on BT Sport 3
Blues on a role
Chelsea kicking on after a 3-0 defeat? It's becoming a pattern. Last term it was a reversal to Arsenal that got the ball rolling for their title win, Antonio Conte shifting to the 3-4-2-1 system that yielded such fabulous results thereafter. And while the Blues might struggle to replicate that success this term, the early signs are that the reversal against Roma at the end of October was the catalyst for a big improvement.
Conte's charges have won five of their six games since, picking up a good point at Liverpool in the other. At the weekend, with Eden Hazard in inspired, inspiring form, they made short work of Newcastle to keep the pressure up on Manchester United in second place. And now they have the chance to seal top spot in their Champions League group: a draw would probably be enough barring a huge swing in the goal difference.
After three Premier League games in quick succession and with qualification already assured, there may be a temptation to rotate here. Álvaro Morata, N'Golo Kanté, Marcos Alonso and Andreas Christiansen are the only outfield players who started against Liverpool, Swansea and Newcastle, so are probably the most likely candidates for rest if changes are made.
Atleti hoping for a miracle
Having your two best strikers on the pitch at the same time: a novel approach, I'm sure you'll agree, but one that has been paying off for Diego Simeone in recent games. After staggering run of binary results (0-0, 1-1, 0-0, 1-0, 1-1, 1-1, 1-1, 1-0, 0-0), the Atlético Madrid boss paired Antoine Griezmann and Kévin Gameiro together late on against Roma and has not looked back since.
Los Colchoneros won that with two late goals (one for each French forward) to keep their Champions League hopes just about alive and have since found some overdue momentum in La Liga: they walloped Levante 5-0 and ground their way past Real Sociedad at the weekend, Griezmann snatching a late winner. Suddenly, they're within six points of the summit in Spain.
They know the odds are stacked against them on Tuesday, with a win needed at Stamford Bridge and a massive favour required of Qarabag in Rome. But wouldn't it be just like a Simeone side to go down fighting, exerting a bit of revenge for the defeat suffered in the Spanish capital earlier in the campaign?
Chelsea have been impressive of late, with the defence starting to click once more and Hazard coming to the boil nicely after a slow start to the season. They put in a clinical performance to win in Madrid in September and can be backed at [2.12] to repeat the dose here.
Yet Atleti have come into a bit of form themselves and have yet to lose on the road all season, getting something from trips to play Roma, Valencia and Athletic Club, among others. A place in the last 16 is realistically beyond them, but they could easily salvage some pride with a draw at [3.6], not least because that result would likely be enough for Chelsea to top the group.
Perhaps because Atleti were so frugal earlier in the season, the market leans towards under 2.5 in west London. But that might be worth opposing: Chelsea's attack is ticking over nicely, Atleti's is newly confident and the set-up of the group could mean this is a fairly open, care-free game. It's no banker, but the overs is the preferred play at [2.0].
With Chelsea top scorer Morata in danger of being rested, the best option for an any time goal is surely Gameiro at a generous [3.7]. The Frenchman should be fresh after being left out of the Copa del Rey win over Elche in midweek and has been lively in recent games, scoring three in his last three appearances.
Jack Lang's Champions League P/L, 2017/18