Atlético Madrid vs Chelsea: Unexpected familiarity

The Champions League semi-final first legs take place this week, with Atlético Madrid and Chelsea doing battle tonight at the Estadio Vicente Calderón.

Given that these two sides have only met three times in the modern era, you could be forgiven for thinking that they would not have too much experience of each other – but this is not the case. A number of players that will take to the pitch tonight have affiliations with their opponents, while Blues boss José Mourinho will be a figure that the home faithful would love to get one up on.

Atleti know Mourinho well from his three years in charge of Real Madrid, with the Portuguese trainer boasting a strong personal record against Los Rojiblancos.

The ex-Madrid boss led his side to eight consecutive La Liga victories over their bitter cross-town rivals during his time in Spain – but Atlético had the last laugh before Mourinho departed to rejoin Chelsea.

A 2-1 extra-time victory in the final of the Copa del Rey signalled that Atleti were ready to go toe-to-toe with the El Clásico powers. It also ensured that Mourinho left Madrid with a trophyless campaign rounding off his time in Spain.

For those taking to the pitch, some will have a vested interest in their opposition.

Fernando Torres will return to his boyhood club for the first time since departing for England in 2007, in what will be an emotional fixture for the experienced Spanish striker.
With Samuel Eto’o unavailable through injury, El Niño could well lead the line against the club he joined as an 11-year-old and played over 200 senior appearances for, scoring over 80 goals in the process.

After question marks whether he would be allowed to play, Thibaut Courtois is set to face his parent club in a fixture that will highlight the talented goalkeeper’s conflicting allegiances.
The Belgian joined the Stamford Bridge team in 2011 but has not played a competitive fixture for them. Instead he is in his third straight season in the Spanish capital and has played over 100 La Liga games for tonight’s hosts.

With uncertainty over the stopper’s future, comparisons with opposite number Petr Čech are only natural, with the pair potentially vying for the number one berth in west London ahead of next season.

Diego CostaAnother of Atlético’s starting XI will know Chelsea and Mourinho well, with Tiago facing his former club and manager.

The Portuguese midfielder spent only one season at Stamford Bridge, playing a key part in Chelsea’s 2004-05 Premier League success.

During the solitary campaign, Tiago played 51 times for the Blues in all competitions, but was forced out of the club after the addition of Michael Essien. Mourinho later claimed that selling Tiago after one campaign was a mistake, with the veteran enforcer sure to have a point to prove.

Finally, Diego Costa has recovered from injury to lead Atletico against a team that he is widely being tipped to join at the end of the campaign.

With none of the Blues’ current three strikers setting the world alight in front of goal, a big-money move for the Brazilian-born sharpshooter is potentially on the cards, with Costa given another opportunity to showcase just how good he is against his main suitor.

Chelsea will hope to avoid a similar result to the last time the teams met, as Atlético romped home 4-1 in the European Super Cup ahead of the 2012-13 season.

The sides also met twice in the group stages of the 2009-10 Champions League, with a 2-2 draw in Spain followed by an emphatic 4-0 Chelsea victory in England.

This time around two evenly matched sides are set to go head-to-head for a place in the final, with a couple of personal grudges adding spice to what should be an exhilarating 180 minutes of action.

I am a freelance football journalist from Northern Ireland living in Broome in Western Australia. I have worked for top media outlets such as FourFourTwo,, Soccerlens, Football Fancast and Here is the City. I am a lifelong and long-suffering Tottenham fan. Follow me on Twitter at @90MinsOnline
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