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After a disappointing 4-0 defeat to defending champions Bayern back in October, Atletico Madrid went on to draw three of their five unbeaten outings to advance through their group.
That includes conceding just twice across the final four of those fixtures and in classic Diego Simone style, they ground their way above both Salzburg and Lokomotiv Moscow.
Chelsea, on the other hand, were emphatic in their group with four wins from six unbeaten outings, easing past all of Krasnodar, Rennes and Sevilla. No doubt, the Blues were given a favourable group, but now under Thomas Tuchel, they’ll need to show what they’re all about.
They have had an impressive start to life under the new management, winning five of their seven unbeaten outings though, as the most impressive factor is that Takumi Minamino is the only opposition player to score against them over that period.
The Spanish outfit have had a slight slump this month with their solitary victory from their four outings coming against Granada, as Levante held the La Liga leaders to just one point from a possible six in their doubleheader last week.
That sees their lead at the head of the table reduced to only three points with a game in hand, and it seems the title race is back on, with local Madrid rivals on their tail.
The last time these two sides met came in the group stages back in 2017/18, with the Blues taking the proceedings at Wanda Metropolitano, while they drew when meeting in London.
It’ll be a little different this time around given we’re in the knockouts, not to mention the neutral venue will be Bucharest.
Under 2.5 Goals
No matter the location, Simone is likely to fall back on his well-organised defence in order to advance from the last-16.
Indeed, 20 of his 29 Champions League knockout matches since the start of 2013/14 have seen fewer than three goals, as eight of 13 opening legs saw a maximum of just one goal, including all three with English sides – 2013/14 Chelsea (0-0), 2016/17 Leicester (1-0) and 2019/20 Liverpool (1-0).
Draw & Under 2.5 Goals
Given the recent arrival of Tuchel the historical results in this tournament of the ‘visitors’ has much less meaning, but it should be noted that they haven’t won a single knockout tie from their last four attempts in Europe’s elite competition dating back to 2014/15, although they did come against PSG (twice), Barcelona and last years’ champions Bayern.
The Blues will be hopeful that Thiago Silva can make a timely return to the side for this all-important European clash, while Atletico will be hoping their key man Jose Gimenez can recover too.
All in all, this looks set to be a cagey low scoring affair from the outset, especially since both sides have come under a few questions marks on their form over the last week.