Chelsea have played pretty well so far, with Alonso putting in a few good crosses from the left, Hudson-Odoi and Mount combining well on the right without quite producing the killer ball, and the defence, early Mendy-related scare aside, looking reasonably strong.
“Surely Chelsea could have worn their first kit, there’s not much of a clash,” sniffs Julian Menz. “I get the kit-marketing aspect, but that strip is so awful no-one is going to buy it anyway. My dear departed dad had pyjamas like that.”
43 mins: Giroud can’t bring down a long pass into the Atletico penalty area, and insists a defender handled the ball in stopping him. The VAR spends 0.8 seconds watching replays before dismissing his appeal. Meanwhile in tonight’s other game, it’s now 0-3.
41 mins: Another decent break from Chelsea, which ends with Alonso lifting a ball from the left to Mount, wide of goal on the right, whose attempted cushion-volleyed cross back in is all wrong. Goal kick.
39 mins: Werner spins into space behind Savic and from well wide of goal and an acute angle lashes a shot goalwards, but it’s straight at Oblak’s head and he gets his hands up in time to save his face a bit of pain.
37 mins: Jorginho tries to lift the ball over Atletico’s defence to Hudson-Odoi, but it’s justoverlong. He needs to keep playing the exact same pass (well, maybe just a fraction less strong), because there is promise there.
12 mins: Hudson-Odoi on the right has been the most available option when Chelsea have attacked, with passes available to him over and beyond the backtracking Lemar, but he has yet to do anything with the scrap of attacking space he’s been afforded.
10 mins: They also have four players in the box, and three offering closer support, when Lemar has the ball on the right, so are essentially planning on most players being both in the defence and in the attack.
3 mins: Nearly a giveaway goal for Atletico! Chelsea try to play the ball around in defence, but it’s passed a little heavily to Mendy, whose first touch is appalling and sends it rolling towards Saul Niguez for a tap-in! He’s saved because his first touch is so bad that Saul can’t control it, and instead is forced wide.
2 mins: A very early booking for Mason Mount, who leans into Joao Felix inside the centre circle, bringing him down. He will therefore miss the second leg (Kovacic and Jorginho are also a booking away from a suspension).
Thomas Tuchel on the early days of his time at Chelsea: “It’s like an orchestra, where you learn a new song and it becomes a habit to play it, but on the way there is a lack of timing and a bit a lack of rhythm.”
If you’re only as good as your last game Chelsea are in luck, because Atletico lost 2-0 to Levante at the weekend. In every other way, though, they’re in for a very tough night. “It’s clear what you get when you play Atlético: fighting, experience and a team with a strong mentality,” says Tommy Tuchel. Sure, the game’s relocation to Bucharest is quite handy, but even so this is not an easy assignment – for either team. “Take my word for it: it’s not easy to play for Cholo,” Filipe Luis said of Diego Simeone to Sid Lowe this week. “He has zero sentimentality. None. He decides what he has to decide to win.” As for Simeone, he called Tuchel a “great coach who always makes his teams play well, wherever he goes”, and added that he “comes to a club that is very strong economically”, which could either be a bland statement of fact or a bit of a dig at the source of their wealth and subsequent success depending on how you look at it, but I’m going with the latter.
Atletico have a few injury-enforced absentees, including Jose Gimenez and Yannick Carrasco, while Chelsea have left Thiago Silva at home, but any match with Luis Suarez, Joao Felix, Christian Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech on its list of likely participants is a match I want to be watching.
Before we get the chance to do that, though, here’s a first instalment of pre-match reading, with more to come: