Chelsea went “away” to Atletico Madrid and just about got the job done. It wasn’t always the prettiest but the Blues came out ahead in a very professional performance. How did every one fare?
Edouard Mendy (Goalkeeper): 6/10
Not much to do between the sticks against an opponent that rarely offered anything going forward. Unfortunately, Mendy’s most notable moments were a handful of loose touches and scuffed passes. Had someone more athletic than Luis Suarez been closing him down, Atletico could have easily taken an early lead after one of Mendy’s mistakes. That said, his job is to keep the ball out of the net, and that’s exactly what he delivered, so it would be unfair to be too harsh on the guy.
Cesar Azpilicueta (Centerback): 8/10
With Callum Hudson-Odoi ahead of him as an exceptionally attack-minded wingback, Azpilicueta had the unenviable assignment of shepherding Joao Felix away from the play in the rare instances where Atletico looked to get forward. By and large, he did just that, save for Felix getting one chance to score from the game’s second-best bicycle kick attempt. More generally, Azpilicueta was arguably the best defender on the pitch, leading Chelsea in tackles, interceptions, clearances, aerial duels and blocked shots. If there is a knock on Azpilicueta’s performance, it’s that he wasn’t able to provide much going forward in a match where Chelsea were firmly on the front foot most of the time. That said, much like Mendy, Azpilicueta’s main job is to keep a clean sheet, and he did that, so there can’t be any major complaints.
Andreas Christensen (Centerback): 7.5/10
Considering Atletico’s reputation for physicality and aggression, Kurt Zouma would have been a more suitable pick for the central defender spot, at least on paper. Thomas Tuchel scoffed at that logical conclusion and instead went with the Dane, presumably for his skill on the ball in a game where Chelsea was likely to dominate possession. While he wasn’t exactly Franz Beckenbauer out there, he was Chelsea’s most accurate passer, completing 73 of 76 attempts. Azpilicueta and Antonio Rudiger hogged most of the measurable statistics, but Christensen did exactly what was needed from the central defender in Tuchel’s 3-4-3. He’ll likely return to being second choice when Thiago Silva is fully fit again, but a good showing against one of the more physically imposing teams in Europe was a massive victory for a player who seemed like a massive gamble when the team sheets came out.
Antonio Rudiger (Centerback): 7/10
Rudiger came perilously close to raising a hand to Luis Suarez’s face, but thought better of it, which is a small miracle in and of itself given Suarez’s reputation as an antagonist. That level of maturity was apparent in every other aspect of his performance as well, as he helped to cover the defensive shortcomings of Marcos Alonso and Jorginho ahead of him. Some of his best moments came late in the match as Chelsea tried to hold onto their advantage while Atletico threw every attacking player on their wage books forward. When faced with the opportunity to play the ball back to Mendy to recycle possession, Rudiger instead opted to avoid Atletico’s pressure entirely and just smash the ball into the stands. Hardly glorious, but absolutely the right thing to do. Rudiger has quickly cemented himself as one of the unquestionable starters under Tuchel, and his performance Tuesday night did nothing to change that.