3. Atletico’s front three vs. Chelsea’s back three
In the previous slides, we’ve talked a lot about the front line of Chelsea—led by Werner—and the back line of Atletico. However, the real focal point of each team is the unit that is seldom called upon. The play of Atletico’s front three and Chelsea’s back three, presuming each team lines up in different variations of the 3-4-3, will dictate who gets the upper hand heading into the second leg of this Round of 16 tie.
Starting with the Atletico attack, everyone knows the names of the three individuals who lead the line. Youngsters Joao Felix and Angel Correa, both growing stars in the global game, are having great seasons but the real storyline is the striker position. Luis Suarez has lit up La Liga in a different shade of red and blue this season. His 18 goal contributions in 24 games have taken Spain by storm and makes his release from Barcelona that much more puzzling. In addition to Suarez’s crucial return, Felix and Correa have played a direct role in 27 goals.
The Atletico front line has everything a team could want in an attacking unit: size, strength, speed, skill and strikers’ instinct. The level of play from Liverpool’s front three has dwindled this campaign and the boys from Atletico may now hold the title of the world’s best this season. They are a terrifying trio and although Chelsea may not be able to completely stop them, the away side will have to slow them down if it wants any chance of winning.
The individuals tasked with halting Atletico’s attacking force won’t be known until an hour or so before kickoff, but we already have a good idea as to who those players will be. Tuchel has turned to Antonio Rudiger, Thiago Silva and Cesar Azpilicueta as the centerbacks in his three-at-the-back system. That unit has a ton of experience and stability, which probably explains why the Blues have kept clean sheets in the three matches they’ve started together under Tuchel. Despite being a side that emphasizes possession and attacking football, Chelsea’s defense has been superb with the German in the dugout.
It goes without saying, one of these units will have to give. They will both bend, but the team who breaks first will likely be on the offensive in the second leg at Stamford Bridge.
What are the key clashes you’ll be keeping an eye on? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter!