Chelsea head into their Champions League semi-final first leg against Atletico Madrid as underdogs and – despite their best efforts – face Europe’s most in-form goalkeeper – Thibaut Courtois.
The Belgian has been outstanding for the Rojiblancos, shipping just one goal in Atleti’s last nine games, as part of a run that has also seen him go five without conceding at the Vicente Calderon.
Little wonder then that reports emerged suggesting that parent club Chelsea were doing their best to scupper any chances of the 21-year-old featuring, with suggestions that the La Liga outfit would be required to pay as much as €5m to start the Belgian.
However, with UEFA quashing such notions, the Londoners head into this game as 19/5 outsiders for victory with Courtois a noticeably short price of evens to keep the Blues out.
The Pensioners played out a 2-2 draw at the ground back in the 2009 and though that result may tempt some to back the draw at 23/10 – something Chelsea managed on their visit to Galatasaray in the last 16 – it would be wiser to back Atleti for victory.
Available at 17/20 for the win, Atleti have happy memories of their previous meeting with the Blues – a 4-1 victory in the European Super Cup two years ago.
More importantly, 10 out of the 11 players that started that game for the Madrid club remain on the Rojiblancos’ books and while the one absentee is the hat-trick hero of that game Radamel Falcao, in Diego Costa the Spaniards have a striker capable of making the difference.
On at 4/1 to open the scoring – something he managed both home and away against AC Milan in the first knockout stage – Ladbrokes is offering 7/4 on an Atleti win with a goal from the Brazilian, something which has been a feature of five of their last six victories in the competition.
Meanwhile, with Samuel Eto’o sidelined, Fernando Torres could feature in what is likely to be an emotionally-charged appearance.
Though struggling for form the 30-year-old has proven prolific on the road in Europe, scoring three goals in Chelsea’s last four away outings in the Champions League.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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