Chelsea faces Atletico Madrid in the first leg of the Champions League Round of 16 in Bucharest. Both teams have dropped points in their latest games, and it will be interesting to see them go head to head. The game will also be a test of tactical acumen as both Thomas Tuchel and Diego Simeone prefer a three at the back system. Here’s a look at the predicted XI for the game!
Edouard Mendy (No. 16) Goalkeeper, Senegal
Edouard Mendy is Chelsea’s no.1 as mentioned by Tuchel recently, and he will be starting this game. Mendy’s net was breached for the first time by the opposition as Takumi Minamino scored over the weekend. The goal was a direct result of poor defending as Chelsea’s backline failed to notice the big gap and Minamino did the rest. This has been the narrative for the past couple of seasons where the defense has let the keeper down. With that being said, Mendy has been solid throughout the season and has kept ten clean sheets in the league. Despite its defensive shape, Atletico Madrid averages 10.3 shots in the Champions League this season. This means that Mendy will be busy in Bucharest and his performance will be a key factor.
Cesar Azpilicueta (No. 28) Centerback, Spain
Cesar Azpilicueta has been one of the standout performers under Tuchel. While he was partially responsible for the defensive error against Southampton, he has been consistent in the past few weeks. In Tuchel’s system, Azpilicueta has been playing as an “overlapping center back” and has been seen up in advanced positions. His role is extremely important as his presence allows the right wingback to push further, and play almost as a winger. In a high profile game against Atletico Madrid, Chelsea will need Azpilicueta presence to organize the defense and breach Atletico’s shape. In the absence of Silva, Azpilicueta will need to communicate effectively and ensure that no defensive blunders take place and the backline remains focused throughout the game.
Kurt Zouma (No. 15) Centerback, France
Kurt Zouma hasn’t featured much under Tuchel. He has been warming the bench for a while, and it was refreshing to see him get his first Premier League start under Tuchel against Southampton. While things didn’t exactly go according to plan, the start would have boosted his confidence. Atletico Madrid is a physical side with Luis Suarez leading the frontline. Andreas Christensen has been good in the Premier League, but Chelsea will need a more physical center back to contain Suarez through the middle, and this is where Zouma will be handy. He brings an aerial threat on both sides of the pitch and could play a huge role against Atletico.
Antonio Rudiger (No. 2) Centerback, Germany
Antonio Rudiger is another player that has been playing consistently in the Premier League. He has been decent and has rescued the team on a few occasions with some fantastic challenges. However, he has a tendency of making mistakes here and there, and that could hurt Chelsea against Atletico. The Blues will hope that Rudiger can maintain his concentration for the length of the game.