Chelsea play at Atletico Madrid in Champions League Group C on Wednesday night.
Here we look at some of the talking points ahead of the clash.
Diego Costa last week was granted his wish to re-join Atletico Madrid after three years, two Premier League titles and 59 goals in 120 Chelsea appearances. If Costa were to be presented ahead of the match he would surely receive a rousing ovation from both sets of supporters. Even Antonio Conte, the Chelsea head coach, has said the summer stand off is in “the past” and he would shake Costa’s hand. It may be Costa will be content to watch the game from the stands.
Chelsea were last season absent from the Champions League group stage for the first time since 2003-04 and out of Europe altogether for the first time in 20 years. The Blues negotiated their return to Europe with a comfortable 6-0 win over Azerbaijan’s Qarabag, either side of a win at Leicester and goalless draw with Arsenal. But this week will be Chelsea’s first true test of their return to Europe’s elite. Atletico have European pedigree and this is arguably the trickiest fixture of the group stage for the Blues, who face high-flying Manchester City on Saturday.
The subject of Conte’s future was raised again when he told Italian radio of his wish to return to Italy one day. Chelsea insist that does not mean Conte will be cutting short his stay and he has two years remaining on his contract. However, he did not extend the length of his deal when his contract was renegotiated in the summer, merely improve his own terms. The question of his commitment may never be answered satisfactorily for all, but he is showing on the touchline and with results what his immediate priority is – success for the team on the pitch.
Even without Costa, who cannot play for Atletico until January due to their transfer embargo, Atletico have an impressive array of attacking talent. France striker Antoine Griezmann is much admired. Fernando Torres has pedigree, despite a relatively disappointing spell at Chelsea. And Argentinian Angel Correa has three goals in six LaLiga games this season. Boss Diego Simeone has never lost as a coach to English opposition, with three wins in five games. Leicester were the latest dispatched last season as Atletico extended their unbeaten home record against English clubs to 11 games, with six of those wins. Chelsea will hope to end the run at the Estadio Metropolitano.
Alvaro Morata did not score against Atletico for Real Madrid, where he was a more peripheral figure than he is now at Chelsea. He has made a fine start to his Chelsea career, scoring his first hat-trick at Stoke last Saturday in the first game since Costa’s move was announced. Spain striker Morata has eight goals in his last six games for club and country and will be eager to extend the streak in Madrid.
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