Connect with us

Atletico Madrid

Lessons Learned: Chelsea in the Champions League



May 19th, 2012 will go down as one of, if not the, greatest moments in Chelsea’s history. Didier Drogba walked off the pitch a hero, his last kick of the ball in blue winning his club the European Cup. The fans and team left Munich having invaded enemy territory, claiming what should have been Bayern’s cup in Bayern’s stadium.

But since that magical May night, Chelsea has failed to rediscover the factors that created the history and success. The next year, they went out in the group stage, becoming the first defending champions to do so. The year after, Mourinho found some of his own magic, inspiring the Blues to make a run to the semis. But there, they fell to Atletico Madrid, after a poor performance across the two legs.

Last season was the worst of all. Chelsea went into the second, home, leg of their Round of 16 match against PSG confident. The 1-1 draw in Paris had given them an away goals advantage. Zlatan Ibrahimovich was sent off after 30 minutes, leaving Chelsea a man up and in complete control.

Somehow, the Blues botched it. After Ibrahimovich was sent off, PSG undoubtedly looked the better side. While PSG had every right to lose their minds (Ibrahimovich’s red card was questionable), they remained calm. Meanwhile, numerous Chelsea players, namely Oscar and Diego Costa, lost their minds. The game grew more and more physical, and as it did more and more Chelsea players cut themselves out of the game by acting stupidly. On top of that, Eden Hazard was hacked down every time he got within ten feet of the ball, neutralizing Chelsea’s only offense.

Chelsea should have had complete control over the game, yet it was PSG’s midfield that bossed the match. Mourinho didn’t instruct his team to press the Parisians, and instead told them to sit back, waiting for PSG to make the moves. Chelsea twice took the lead, and each time allowed PSG to equalize. Both goals came off corners, making the backline even more responsible.

The tie ended 3-3 on aggregate, but instead of away goals pushing Chelsea through, away goals sent the Blues out. Mourinho immediately complained about the “dark arts” used against Hazard, but Chelsea had no excuse for their performance. It was undisciplined. The defense was faulty. The attack was blunt. It was the direct antithesis of how Mourinho teams should play.

Contrasted with last season’s domestic domination, the feeble Champions League campaign was startling. But Chelsea can grow from the disgrace. Failure is a catalyst for change and improvement. The Blues have learned several important lessons from the last few Champions League campaigns. If they want to fulfill Mourinho’s predictions of a “new generation of winners” at Chelsea, they must apply those lessons to future campaigns.

Slack: Mourinho’s men struggled to breakdown a talented and expensive PSG side. The Blues ended up exiting the Champions League. Veratti (right) impressed throughout both legs of the tie.

  1. Find someone to share Hazard’s burden

The reason that the “dark arts” strategy both Simeone and Blanc used on Eden Hazard was effective is that simply, Chelsea’s offense breathes and dies with Hazard. While Cesc Fabregas is the chief playmaker, and Diego Costa is the main goalscorer, Hazard is the go-between. Fabregas needs to give the ball to someone to be effective, while Costa needs someone to give him the ball to be effective.

Hazard connects the two. It is his runs, both with and without the ball, which attracts the defense’s attention. He is the only player on the team who can score goals without any help. He is the only player who can create on the move.

Both Atleti and PSG saw that when Hazard is on the ground, he isn’t attacking the defense. Both teams saw that without him, Chelsea was blunt. Both chose to hack him, much like how many teams deal with Messi, at every turn.

One of Mourinho’s priorities for the offseason must be the acquisition of another scorer-creator like Hazard. Antoine Griezmann, Gareth Bale or Mario Götze, all linked to Chelsea, would provide the answer.

Griezmann is Mourinho’s most likely acquisition. However, Gotze is said to be frustrated at the lack of importance in his role at Bayern, Chelsea could swoop for either.

These players, like Hazard, can take the ball and make plays. They can set up teammates or score themselves. They can create quick counters, or break down compact defenses.

If Hazard can get some help, then Chelsea would go from being the dominant English team to being one of the lead contenders for the Champions League. Teams wouldn’t be able to shut down Chelsea’s offense easily anymore. The Blues could finally rival Real, Barca and Bayern for the top spot in Europe.

  1. Take the game to opponents

One of the biggest mistakes Chelsea made against PSG was sitting back. The Blues should have pressed the Parisians, and made the rest of the match uncomfortable.

Instead, the visitors were allowed to settle into a rhythm, and then control the game. That lost the tie for Chelsea.

Mourinho’s primary strategy, particularly in cup ties, is to sit back and force opponents to make a mistake. Often, this works, particularly when the other team is desperate and chasing a goal. They are likely to make a mistake and open themselves up to the counter.

But what Jose has to understand is that that scenario will be a rare occurrence now. Chelsea is quickly entering the top echelon of European soccer. That strategy works against Barca, Real, Bayern and desperate home sides.

It would have worked against PSG as well, but only in a limited sense. Had Chelsea pressured PSG for the last 15 minutes of the half, and the start of the second, the Parisians would have only grown comfortable as the game ended.

With a squad that is as offensively talented as the one Jose has, a mixed strategy needs to be adopted. Certainly, with as solid of a backline and keeper Chelsea has, playing a first and foremost defensive strategy makes sense. But at times, Mourinho needs to be prepared to let his players off the leash.

This team put five past Schalke, six past Everton and four past Swansea. Chelsea is capable of some attacking fireworks.

  1. Stay calm and in control

What really lost the PSG match for Chelsea was their inability to stay calm. Most of the time, it is the Blues physicality that gets under opponents skins. But instead, PSG threw Diego Costa and Oscar off with strong tackles and intimidating stare downs.

The atmosphere at Stamford Bridge grew tenser as the evening went on. It played directly into PSG’s hands. Even though they needed a goal, for most of the game it looked like they were going through. Chelsea looked desperate for a goal, and gave off an air of frustration and anger.

Mourinho needed to do a better job of calming his team down. Instead, he let the atmosphere get out of control. Costa was lucky to escape without a red card, after nearly fighting with several PSG’s players on multiple occasions.

If Chelsea intends to make deep runs into the Champions League, they are going to need to be prepared to walk into the Nou Camp and the Bernabeu, facing hostile crowds. They are going to need to be able to stay calm.

That underdog Chelsea side which won the Champions League came from behind often. Against Barcelona, they faced the defending European Champions, needing a goal, without their captain. Still, they pulled out the win.

As Chelsea’s players grow more experienced and used to playing with each other, this will come along. But Mourinho needs to make sure that in the meantime, he uses everything in his power to keep Chelsea in games, and not out of their minds.

Mourinho must ensure he maintains the composure of his men for a full ninety minutes, otherwise results could suffer.

Mourinho has won two European Cups (2003 with Porto, 2010 with Inter), but this Chelsea team presents a different challenge. Whereas both of his first European Cup teams were underdogs in most fixtures, Chelsea is entering a point where less and less teams are considered better than them.

Jose needs to combine what he has learned in his prior coaching experience and combine it with the lessons provided by the last two seasons. This Chelsea team has the potential to win a European Cup, but not unless it adapts and grows stronger.

The PSG and Atleti losses were tough to deal with, but in the long run, they will benefit Chelsea greatly. The Blues now know what to do to succeed in Europe.

[interaction id=”559d6b1c9831cbaa214d7032″] [separator type=”thin”]


Save up to £30 in @CampoRetro’s end of season SALE. Up to 65% OFF & prices from £15

James is Chelsea fan, but he enjoys writing about more than just Stamford Bridge. He has written about Swansea, internationals and the Champions League before. Give him a follow @thepitchview

Atletico Madrid

What is Diego Costa’s Chelsea legacy after three eventful years in the Premier League?

Rob Meech



Diego Costa

Diego Costa’s controversial Chelsea career is finally set to come to an end. According to The Guardian, the Blues have agreed to sell the striker back to his former club, Atletico Madrid, for £57 million, subject to agreeing personal terms and passing a medical. Costa scored 59 goals from 120 appearances in all competitions for Chelsea, winning the Premier League title on two occasions as well as the League Cup.

His uncompromising style won him few friends but there was no denying his influence and suitability to England’s top-flight. Costa’s relationship with Antonio Conte turned sour this summer when it emerged the Chelsea manager had told the Brazilian-born forward via text message that he was no longer in his plans. Costa pushed for a return to Atletico and was ostracised by Conte, who will no doubt be relieved this saga is now resolved.

What is Costa’s legacy at Chelsea?

Regardless of the negative reputation he had among the wider public, Costa was loved by the majority of Chelsea supporters and played a huge part in their domestic success during his spell at the club. Due to its competitiveness, the Premier League is notoriously difficult to win, so for the Blues to have done so twice in three years – under two different managers – is a remarkable feat. Costa’s goals were fundamental to this. Put simply, the Blues would not have been crowned champions without him. He netted 20 times in each of their title-winning campaigns and made life miserable for defenders.

Costa never strayed too far from controversy though and occasionally crossed the line of acceptable conduct. Infamously, he received a three-match ban in January 2015 for stamping. But the 28-year-old was always at his best when playing on the edge. Take that out of his game and he would definitely not be the same player. Jose Mourinho understood this compromise, but Conte found it harder to accommodate. With his high-intensity style, the Italian needed to know he could rely on each and every one of his players. Ultimately, he could not trust Costa to follow his instructions.

How will Chelsea fare without him?

Conte is a ruthless character and once he had made it clear that Costa’s days at Stamford Bridge were numbered, there was never a way back. The high-profile capture of Alvaro Morata from Real Madrid was confirmation, if it were needed, that their relationship was irreparable and Conte had moved on. The biggest compliment that can be paid to the Spaniard, though, is that Conte signed a replacement very much in his image. Costa had taken to the Premier League like a duck to water, and Morata has very similar attributes. He too, has started in blistering fashion and looks tailor-made for the English game.

After their opening-day blip against Burnley, Chelsea have rediscovered their best form and are unbeaten in four Premier League games. On that score, it doesn’t appear that they are missing Costa. No player is bigger than the club and Conte had obviously grown tired of the Spain international’s antics, however entertaining they were for us, the viewers. Financially, the Blues have made an enormous profit on Costa, having signed him for £32 million just over three years ago.

Can Costa rebuild his career at Atletico?

Costa’s public desire to rejoin the club at which he won the La Liga title in 2014, highlights the affiliation he has with the club. He is perfectly suited to Diego Simeone’s brand of football and he will relish linking up with Antoine Griezmann. Atletico of course, remain under a transfer embargo, which means Costa will not be eligible to play for them until January. But once he is, it will surprise nobody if he is back on the goalscoring trail straight away.

Continue Reading

Atletico Madrid

Could Atletico Madrid striker Nicolas Gaitan make a surprise move to Watford to pave the way for Diego Costa’s return?




This is certainly one of the more surprising stories to surface from transfer deadline day but the Hertfordshire Mercury claim that Watford have been offered Atletico Madrid striker Nicolas Gaitan.

It is understood that the Spanish side are looking to clear room for Diego Costa – who is edging closer to an Atletico return according to the Daily Mail – and as such are ready to off-load Gaitan.

The report continues to say that although the La Liga outfit would rather have an up-front loan fee paid in the region of €2 million (£1.8 million) they are happy to add an option to buy in the deal.

What could the Argentine international bring to Vicarage Road?

It’s fair to say that Watford fans didn’t expect this when they woke up this morning. Nicolas Gaitan has been one of the most consistent goal-scorers across Europe in the past seven seasons, bursting on to the scene at Benfica in 2010 after arriving from Argentine side Boca Juniors.

In a six-year spell, spanning over 250 appearances, the 29-year-old found the net 41 times in all competitions and played a massive part in Benfica winning three consecutive Primeira Liga titles.

Despite beginning his footballing career in Argentina as more of a left-sided midfielder he began to develop into a dangerous player further up the pitch in Portugal, often being utilised in the number ten role just behind the striker, but he could easily fit in wherever Watford boss Marco Silva sees fit.

To attract a team like Atletico Madrid you already know that there’s a little bit of flair to his play, comfortable when driving at a static back-four and using his speed and close ball-control for results.

His excellent sense of vision in and around the final third would be an incredibly underrated asset should he join too, and he could spark a very productive partnership indeed with new man Andre Gray.

And although he played second fiddle to Antoine Griezmann and Fernando Torries for most of last season, scoring three times in just 11 starts in La Liga, there’s little doubt he’d impress at Watford.

The Boot Room’s Verdict (1/5)

The arrival of Gaitan really would send Watford supporters into dream land following the summer business done to date, but this is one of those deals that is dependent on something else happening.

And with Costa’s future well and truly in the air, and time ticking away, it doesn’t seem like there’s enough time remaining before the deadline to see both Chelsea and Watford complete their deals.

Gaitan to Watford
Reader Rating1 Vote1.85
Transfer Likelihood
The Boot Room's Verdict
The arrival of Gaitan really would send Watford supporters into dream land following the summer business done to date, but this is one of those deals that is dependent on something else happening. And with Costa’s future well and truly in the air, and time ticking away, it doesn’t seem like there’s enough time remaining before the deadline to see both Chelsea and Watford complete their deals.
Continue Reading

Atletico Madrid

As Atletico close in on Diego Costa, will Chelsea’s Antonio Conte rue his decision?




All decisions have consequences, and football managers in particular live or die by the paths that they choose during the course of their job.

So, with the Mirror reporting that Atletico Madrid are closing in on a £30 million deal for Chelsea outcast and former Los Rojiblancos striker Diego Costa, Antonio Conte will be the latest manager to put himself on the line with a seemingly impulsive leadership decision.

After telling the controversial forward that he was no longer part of the club’s plans by text at the end of last season, one of the summer’s most unsavoury transfer sagas could well be coming to a close.

The question is whether Conte will rue his decision in a season in which Chelsea must compete on both domestic and continental fronts, or unify the squad by removing an occasionally unsettling influence from its midst?

Will Conte return home to Madrid?

The deal itself is an unusual one, as while all parties are motivated to complete the transfer there is no guarantee that Atletico will sign their man before the window closes.

Due to the breakdown of the relationship between player and manager and Costa’s decision to remain in his native Brazil until a deal is concluded, Chelsea are determined to drive a hard bargain and the club’s posturing has hindered talks.

Even with a £30 million compromise in the offing, this is a transfer that is likely to run and run until the final moments of the window.

Atletico’s transfer embargo has also complicated any potential deal, but as The Guardian confirmed in pre-season the club can officially agree terms with Costa if Chelsea accept their bid.

The player would then be eligible to represent the club when the embargo is lifted on January, although Atletico would be keen for Costa to play on loan somewhere else in order to maintain his match fitness. This is unlikely to be a deal-breaker, but it could distract Atletico in their attempts to land the Brazilian-born Spanish striker.

Everton may also be ready to provide a solution, with the club short of established strikers and the Independent reporting that manager Ronald Koeman would be willing to secure his services on a short-term loan. This would certainly add another piece to the jigsaw, helping to smooth any complications and help Costa achieve his dream move back to Madrid.

Will Conte Regret his Actions?

The saga surrounding Costa has been bizarre, with the striker deemed surplus to requirements despite scoring 20 league goals in 35 appearances as the Blues secured the title in Conte’s first season as manager. The issue first emerged last January, when Costa was linked to a move to China amid concerns over his fitness and dedication to the club.

Although a deal did not materialise, this seemed to fracture the relationship between the player and his manager, with the Italian famously discarding his striker by text at the end of last season.

While the relationship is almost certainly beyond repair, the question that remains is whether Conte will rue his conduct towards Costa. Deeming an experienced and proven forward surplus to requirements so soon after the season ended appeared reckless at best, particular with the Blues already short of alternative number -nines.

The subsequent signing of Alvaro Morata has done little to assuage the issue, as Chelsea continue to lack a strong and powerful centre-forward who can retain possession and link play.

Morata’s disappointing display during the 2-1 win against Tottenham at Wembley reaffirmed this, as while the Blues secured an impressive win they were constantly subjected to heavy pressure from Spurs due to their inability to retain the ball. Morata was too easily dominated by Tottenham’s powerful centre-halves, and Chelsea would have greatly benefited from Costa’s presence.

This is a trend that could well be repeated during other away games this season, during which the Blues will need to find alternative ways of playing if they are to be successful.

Time will tell for Conte, but Chelsea need options in attack

On a fundamental level, the Blues need further options and number in attack, particularly as they look to compete in both the Premier League and the Champions League this season.

In this respect, discarding a player who is capable of scoring 20 or more goals each season seems detrimental to the team, regardless of how difficult he can be to manage within the group.

Only time will tell whether Conte made an inspired managerial decision by axing Costa, or simply allowed ego and impulse to weaken his squad at a time when Chelsea are looking to build on last years’ success.

Continue Reading

Copyright © 2017 The Boot Room.