Atlético Madrid host Chelsea in the Champions League today, Tuesday… in Bucharest. Effects of the covid-19 pandemic. There are no planes allowed from England to Spain, and no exception was made for football. One might possibly have been made, given the teams travel in strict bubbles, but there was no special rule for football in the end. So Atlético have to organise a pitch outside Spain (as Leipzig had to do for their match against Liverpool last week and Borussia Moenchengladbach have to against City). Atleti first considered Genoa, which is closer and had a venue free on the date, but Simeone is superstitious and preferred Bucharest, where he won the final of the Europa League in 2012 against Athletic.
Atlético looking wobbly at the back
That pleasant memory then sees Atlético playing a long way from Madrid, although for the competition it counts as being at home, meaning any Chelsea goals will come with the premium we all know so well. What we are all hoping for of course is for a clean sheet from Oblak, not just because that’s the aim in a first leg at home, but also because Atleti have suddenly softened at the back. In all Cholo Simeone’s time in charge they’ve never let in a goal in seven games in a row. They have now. It’s allowed their advantage in LaLiga to slip away. And it’s at the back where the doubts are creeping in. Up front the team’s continues in good form.
Football is a short blanket
None of this should surprise us, we’ve known Tim’s* wise theory for a long time now, under which football is a short blanket: if you cover your head you uncover your feet and vice versa. With Luis Suárez, Simeone pushed the team up to provide more for him and the Uruguayan has responded as hoped. But we’re so used to seeing Oblak not conceding that it’s been a shock to see these seven games conceding. Today we’ll see how they cope with the test posed by Chelsea. Hopefully they’ll come through with flying colours. LaLiga needs it. The pessimistic feeling is taking hold that we’re off the pace in Europe. Atleti are top of our class, so they’re playing for everyone.
*Tim being Brazilian player and coach Elba de Pádua Lima. Curiously this theory in the English-language press does not appear to be commonly attributed to Tim, but was quoted by Rafa Benítez, with some outlets giving the Spanish coach credit for the concept.