Chelsea took on Atletico Madrid in the second leg of their last 16 tie in what turned out to be a surprisingly straightforward match for the home side. Touted as a match that would prove a stern test for Thomas Tuchel’s new look, defense-first Chelsea, Atletico were disappointing on the night as the home side came out convincing winners. Here are the player ratings from Chelsea 2, Atletico Madrid 0.
Edouard Mendy (Goalkeeper): 7/10
Wednesday night’s clean sheet against Atletico Madrid meant that over 600 minutes of football has now elapsed since Mendy has had to pick the ball out of the back of his net. In a run of games that featured the likes of Liverpool and Manchester United, Mendy picked up his sixth clean sheet in a row in absolute style with yet another solid display in Chelsea’s goal. Commanding in the box and incredibly composed when the need to make a pass or a save arises, the 28-year-old notably kept things simple throughout the match, providing much-needed composure at the back even in face of increasing pressure from Atletico as the match progressed.
Cesar Azpilicueta (Centerback): 8/10
Deployed in his favored role on the right side of the back three, Chelsea’s captain should consider himself lucky that his tug on Yannick Carrasco inside the box early in the game went unpunished by the officials. In a moment that could have seen him sent off for his rather cynical challenge, the play was instead waved on by the referees and Azpilicueta was left on the pitch to do Azpilicueta things. Superb in his ability to read a game and anticipate offensive threats on goal, it was the Spaniard who threw himself at the feet of Moussa Dembele to deny the Frenchman a tap in at the near post and it was Azpilicueta once again who got in the way of Joao Felix’s shot late on to deflect the ball out for a corner. Moreover, in the absence of Thiago Silva, the 31-year-old’s leadership was likewise crucial in ensuring that Chelsea’s backline was able to maintain its shape for large parts of the match. All in a day’s work for Chelsea’s evergreen steward at the back.
Kurt Zouma (Centerback): 8.5/10
Brought in to replace the more light-weighted Andreas Christensen at the heart of the Chelsea defense, perhaps in anticipation of the more physical side of Atletico’s game, Kurt Zouma was simply outstanding on the night. Having previously been used in a similar fashion in the game against Southampton during which a lapse of concentration from the Frenchman allowed Takumi Minamino through on goal to score, questions were undoubtedly going to be asked of Tuchel’s decision to start the 26-year-old should a similar mistake happen. It was under this kind of pressure, together with months of transfer speculation that have followed due to his lack of involvement under Tuchel that Zouma put in a phenomenal display against the La Liga leaders. Strong in the air and domineering when dealing with threats within the Chelsea box, the Frenchman slipped in seamlessly between Azpilicueta and Rudiger, never putting a foot wrong across the 95 minutes he spent on the pitch. It was a performance that has certainly provided much food for thought as Chelsea continue to contemplate how best to move forward with their centerback options beyond this season.
Antonio Rudiger (Centerback):9/10
My man-of-the-match on the night, the German’s resurgence since Thomas Tuchel’s appointment has been nothing short of the spectacular. Composed when on the ball and incredibly aggressive when off it, Rudiger completely nullified Atletico’s attacking threat throughout the entirety of the match with Luis Suarez’s 59th-minute substitution a testament as to just how effective the 28-year-old was. More importantly, the German’s no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners style of play most certainly got into the heads of his Atletico counterparts and Stefan Savic’s sending off was arguably a direct result of this. Wednesday’s victory and clean sheet mark Rudiger’s 16th of the season in just 21 matches and on the evidence of his performance against Atletico, it is no surprise that rumors are already pointing towards an imminent extension of his contract at Chelsea.