Chelsea FC have been dealt a harsh draw against Atletico Madrid in the semi-final of the Champions League. Jose Mourinho’s side, who overturned a two-goal first leg deficit to beat PSG 3-3 by one away goal in the quarter-final, will face Atletico at the Vicente Calderon Stadium on Tuesday April 22, and bring them back for the second leg at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday April 30. The other semi-final draw saw Real Madrid pitted against holders Bayern Munich in a showdown that will begin at the Bernbabeu Stadium on Wednesday April 23.
While at this stage of the competition there are no easy games to play, there are certainly teams Chelsea would have wanted to avoid, Atletico Madrid being near the top of such a list. The current Spanish league leaders dumped Barcelona out by a 2-1 aggregate score in the last round, and look set to claim their first domestic La Liga crown since 1996. Their last meeting with the London side took place in the 2012 Super Cup, winning convincingly by four goals to one thanks in part to a wonderful Radamel Falcao hat-trick.
There is little doubt that Jose Mourinho would have enjoyed a tie with former team Real Madrid, both in terms of progression chances and sentimentality. Out of the other three teams left in the tournament, they are arguably the weakest, scraping past an out-of-sorts Borussia Dortmund side 3-2 on aggregate, and trailing both local rivals Atletico Madrid and Barcelona in the Spanish league. However, with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale on the flanks, no-one expects their clash with Bayern Munich to be anything other than hard-fought and extremely close.
Whilst the Champions League draw has been harsh on Chelsea FC, they will be counting their blessings it wasn’t Bayern pulled out of the mix instead. The relentless German outfit have already claimed their domestic league title with seven matches remaining (beating a record previously set by themselves) and won the Champions League last season by beating Dortmund 2-1 in the final. Despite a shaky display in the first leg of their quarter-final tie away to Manchester United, they ended up progressing comfortably with a well-deserved 4-2 aggregate result against the English side. If they beat Real Madrid, Bayern will have reached the Champions League final four times in the last five seasons.
With a strong mix of young players like Eden Hazard and Andre Schurrle, experienced players such as Frank Lampard and Samuel Eto’o, and a manager who knows how to win the Europe’s most coveted trophy (Mourinho has won the Champions League twice in 10 years) Chelsea fans will see no reason as to why their team can’t go all the way this time around. Chelsea’s last final in the competition came in 2012, when they beat current favourites Bayern Munich 4-3 in a penalty shoot out after a 90-minute score of 1-1. With a reasonable likelihood of the 2014 final being played out by the same two teams, it’ll be a case of who’s improved the most in two years, with many plumping for Bayern should that be the case.
Before attention turns to that last game in Lisbon however, Chelsea FC face the daunting task of overcoming a very well-drilled Atletico side, and despite many thinking the Champions League draw has been harsh on them, Mourinho’s men will face the challenge head on and give themselves more than a fighting chance of becoming finalists once again.
Commentary by Zachary John