There is additional irony in Jose Mourinho’s post match claims that his was the better team before conceding an equaliser – based on possession. Ho ho.
It would perhaps be short-sighted to claim that Chelsea got their just desserts after that superb 3-1 win for Atletico Madrid at Stamford Bridge.
After all, Pep Guardiola has won dozens of trophies playing a style exposed by Real Madrid on Tuesday night; Jose Mourinho has a busy cabinet thanks to its polar opposite.
Chelsea’s ultra-defensive displays at the Vicente Calderon and Anfield, where they beat Liverpool 2-0, yielded the desired results; obviously they were doing something right.
But, presuming Mourinho was not looking to secure another shut-out in Chelsea’s semi-final second leg, his team were always going to have to play more openly, which is – like the Sunderland match – where they came unstuck.
Herein lies the problem for Chelsea – with centre-backs too slow to defend a high line, and an attack line shorn of genuine potency since Didier Drogba left the club, they can’t really take games to the big teams. Sitting deep and going for the break is more suitable for them, although they are able to come forward more with the cup-tied Nemanja Matic anchoring the midfield.
And while Mourinho is not known for his tactical errors, the decision to field a defensively-minded midfield was ultimately the wrong one.
The Blues bench boasted Andre Schuerrle and Oscar, both of whom are greater suited to a counter-attacking midfield set up than David Luiz and Cesar Azpilicueta. Luiz in particular was out of sorts, probably a result of Matic occupying that place more frequently since January.
Schuerrle and Oscar, while perhaps not as disciplined as Azpilicueta, offer more in terms of counter-attacking transitions. Chelsea lost the midfield battle quite comfortably, and with that pair it may have been more even.
Additionally, there were defensive errors at play. Ashley Cole has been excellent since finding himself back in the team, but he erred for the first goal; Eden Hazard, Chelsea’s player of the season, was rushed back after injury. The aforementioned Oscar probably had more match sharpness than the Belgian, who was also at fault for Atletico’s away goal, which ultimately forced Chelsea on the offensive.
Ultimately though, Chelsea were beaten by the better team.
There are glaring holes in the English club’s squad – up front – not to mention the absences of Petr Cech, Matic and Mohamed Salah. Atletico had a full squad fit and ready, and one of the best strikers in the business leading the line.
Mourinho didn’t help himself by omitting Oscar and Schuerrle, but his XI last week was mighty fortunate to escape the Calderon with a draw. And anyway, it’s a relatively new team in some ways, whereas Atletico’s side has been grinding along for a few years now.
We must also remember that Simeone’s phenomenal coaching of Atletico has positioned them top of La Liga – ahead of global heavyweights Real Madrid and Barcelona. They are the team of the hour, with the coach of the year.
Chelsea don’t exactly have to go back to the drawing board, but there will be purchases this summer, with Atletico hero Diego Costa the most likely major acquisition.
There is also the potential return of Thibaut Courtois, although goalkeeper is not Chelsea’s biggest problem. And with Matic and Salah available next season, things are actually looking pretty rosy for Chelsea.
- Jose Mourinho
- Atletico Madrid
- Real Madrid