Chelsea stands in way of Atletico’s 1st CL final
LONDON (AP) — It’s not only illness that has exhausted Jose Mourinho. Defending the virtues of employing defensive tactics once again is wearing out the Chelsea manager.
However much Liverpool and Atletico Madrid were frustrated by Mourinho’s well-disciplined methods to stifle them in the last week, they kept Chelsea on track to trophies in the Champions League and English Premier League.
“At the moment football is full of philosophers, people who (think they) understand much more than me,” Mourinho said Tuesday. “A team without balance is not a team.”
Chelsea will contest a third consecutive European final, the first under Mourinho, if the team can build on a hard-fought 0-0 draw with Atletico Madrid in the second leg of their Champions League semifinal on Wednesday.
Spanish leader Atletico could be even more desperate. It has never won the Champions League, and made its only final appearance 40 years ago.
Here are five things to know about Wednesday’s match at Stamford Bridge:
The second leg might again not be the most entertaining of games to watch for neutrals, unless they want to catch Mourinho’s touchline flamboyance and flashpoints. Atletico has conceded just five goals in 11 Champions League games this season to remain the only unbeaten side and, like Chelsea, has the stingiest defense domestically.
“You can play perfect football, have lots of one-touch stuff, and you lose,” Chelsea winger Andre Schuerrle said. “But that’s not what you want — you want to win. There’s no point in playing well and losing.”
Atletico manager Diego Simeone defended Mourinho’s apparent spoiling tactics.
“I believe football has a changing nature, that no one has the truth about what’s the best way of playing,” Simeone said through a translator at Stamford Bridge. “There is not one way of playing football, if we all played the same way it would be very boring.”
While Chelsea, the 2012 Champions League winner, is making its seventh semifinal appearance in the last decade, Atletico is in the last four in the European Cup for the first time in 40 years. Atletico did win the Europa League in 2012 before relinquishing the trophy to Chelsea last May. By also breaking up the Barcelona-Real Madrid duopoly in Spain this season, Atletico has shown itself not to be burdened by past shortcomings. Unlike Chelsea, which is second in the Premier League title race, Atletico leads the way in Spain after winning nine consecutive matches to close in on the trophy for the first time since 1996. “It’s clear our team is prepared for the biggest contests and is very confident,” captain Gabi Fernandez said. “This team’s conviction is so resolute, it’s something you rarely see. We’re players that haven’t won much. We’re all pretty much rookies when it comes to winning trophies. The hunger is what characterizes us.”
SEARCH FOR GOALS
How Mourinho could do with Diego Costa in the blue of Chelsea rather than the red and white of Atletico on Wednesday. The striker has 35 goals this season, and Mourinho has hardly concealed his frustrations with the attacking players he inherited on returning last year to Chelsea after six years. Demba Ba might not be rated by Mourinho, with the Senegal forward not making the starting lineup in Madrid last Tuesday. But he has scored on his last two Premier League starts, including in Sunday’s 2-0 win at leader Liverpool, and netted Chelsea’s last Champions League goal, in the second leg of their quarterfinal against Paris Saint-Germain.
Chelsea left Madrid without conceding despite goalkeeper Petr Cech dislocating a shoulder early in the game. Even at 41, Mark Schwarzer has proved to be a capable understudy, also keeping a clean sheet at Anfield. Although Cech surprisingly made an appearance on Tuesday in training, Mourinho said the Czech goalkeeper has no chance of being fit for the game. But captain John Terry has recovered from an ankle injury to start after limping off in Madrid.
Chelsea midfielders Frank Lampard and John Obi Mikel, and Atletico’s Gabi are suspended and won’t play on Wednesday. Chelsea defender David Luiz is one booking away from missing out on a potential trip to the final in Lisbon next month. Atletico defenders Emiliano Insua and Juanfran, and midfielder Koke are similarly at risk of being suspended for the final.
AP Sports Writer Paul Logothetis in Madrid contributed to this report.