Champions League Tactical Preview: Chelsea to safely progress

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel
Tuchel's Chelsea should see out the tie.

Alex Keble takes a look at the midweek Champions League ties and predicts both English clubs will safely get through to the last eight...

"At Stamford Bridge, Atletico will likely move to a more confrontational and counter-attacking approach as the game wears on, with quick wingers deployed on both flanks to support Luis Suarez."

Well-rested City to thrash Rose's side

Manchester City v Borussia Monchengladbach
Tuesday, 20:00
Live on BT Sport 2

This match is a dead rubber. Borussia Monchengladbach have lost six matches in a row in all competitions and haven't won a game since the beginning of February; they have been in total free-fall ever since Marco Rose agreed to join Borussia Dortmund at the end of the season, with their expansive football looking hopelessly porous of late.

Manchester City should score four or five goals without any real resistance. The most important battle will probably be on City's right where Riyad Mahrez and Kevin de Bruyne, both rested at the weekend, will be doubling up as usual on that side of the pitch. Their direct opponent left-back Remy Bensebaini may not get adequately support from Marcus Thuram.

Monchengladbach have to go for this, being 2-0 down from the first leg, and Rose's side generally like to confront the opposition high up the pitch. This will most likely lead to a disastrous score line for the visitors as Man City, refreshed and playing without pressure, win comfortably.

Goal-shy Real to keep Atalanta at arms' length

Real Madrid v Atalanta
Tuesday, 20:00
Live on BT Sport 3

There is unlikely to be a lot of goalmouth action between two teams who just aren't themselves at the moment. Atalanta are supposed to be a flowing, high-pressing outfit whose man-marking in open play and overlapping centre-backs resembles some of the aesthetic madness of a Marcelo Bielsa team, but they struggled to get out of first gear in the first leg - reflecting a recent hesitancy on the road.

As for Real Madrid, they have scored six goals in the last five games as Zinedine Zidane's side struggle to play with fluency. Zidane has a knack for deploying a conservative, non-pressing midblock in big European nights like these, trusting the individual quality in his front line but generally relying on a sturdy, risk-averse defensive approach.

That is even more likely considering their 1-0 first-leg lead. As Atalanta attempt to pour bodies forward at the Bernabeu, often struggling to do so with much coherence, there could be gaps on the break for Karim Benzema. That should be enough to ensure a win on the night for Real Madrid.


Lazio's weak right suggests Gnabry-inspired thrashing

Bayern Munich v Lazio
Wednesday, 20:00
Live on BT Sport 3

Lazio are usually a strong counter-attacking team under Simone Inzaghi, whose 3-5-2 is resolute in defence and springs forward quickly, but that was not the case in the first leg - and their games since have followed a similar pattern of flaws, namely some poor defensive mistakes as Lazio set themselves up to be too open.

They are weakest down their right side, where right-sided centre-back Patric is struggling without enough support from the attack-minded right wing-back Adam Marusic. Patric was torn apart by Kingsley Coman in Rome, and was since in trouble against Juventus: all three of their goals in a 3-1 win at the beginning of March came down that side of the pitch.

And it gets worse. This time, Patric will be facing Serge Gnabry, who scored in Bayern's game against Werder Bremen at the weekend. Thomas Muller, absent from the first leg, assisted twice on Saturday. He and Gnabry will make Lazio's uphill battle considerably harder, which points to a very comfortable home win on Wednesday.

Late Simeone gamble to define the tie

Chelsea v Atletico Madrid
Wednesday, 20:00
Live on BT Sport 2

Chelsea's excellent defensive record under Thomas Tuchel seems likely to be extended at Stamford Bridge when he presumably returns to the 3-4-2-1 formation on Wednesday. This system has a solidity, and compression between the lines, that is likely to keep Atletico pinned back for long periods, just as it did in Madrid last month. However, Diego Simeone will have to take more risks now they are a goal down.

Atleti didn't really show up in the first leg, failing to play the more expansive style of football that the manager had promised, and instead reverted to type with a defensive and cautious philosophy. That will again play out for long periods of this match, or at least as long as it remains 0-0; Tuchel's 3-4-2-1 is too narrow, and has too few runners in behind, to really trouble the Atletico defence.

But towards the end of the tie that could change dramatically. Simeone has been playing a 4-1-4-1 recently, and in the 1-1 draw with Real Madrid deployed Angel Correa and Yannick Carrasco on the wings. At Stamford Bridge, Atletico will likely move to a more confrontational and counter-attacking approach as the game wears on, with quick wingers deployed on both flanks to support Luis Suarez. On balance, Chelsea should have enough to temper any change of style in the second half.

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