Theres no more time for excuses as the semifinals of the Champions League get underway. Atletico Madrid and Chelsea are probably the most similar teams left at this juncture in the competition, but theres one huge difference between them: About $250 million worth of yearly budget leaning the balance towards Mourinhos squad.
Here the five keys for one of the most awaited match up in Europe this season:
1. Will Thibaut Courtois finally play?
Chelsea added a clause in Courtois loan agreement to Atletico that, should they meet in Europe, the Spanish side had to pay 3 million euro per game if they wanted the Belgian goalkeeper to play.
UEFA then ruled that those type of clauses were illegal, as they were not allowing a worker do their job. Well, it seems Chelsea has decided to be flexible enough to let Courtois play, but they will most likely be much tougher when negotiating the terms of next seasons loan deal.
2. Eden Hazards health
Eden Hazard has been out since the last match against PSG two weeks ago, and what seemed like a minor calf injury has had him off the pitch for nearly 15 days.
He has traveled to Madrid, but missed the early morning practice in London, so theres no saying whether or not he will be able to start at Calderon Stadium.
Even if he does, theres really no saying what shape he is in after two weeks of inactivity, and facing a defense with the likes of Godin and Miranda at 75 percent doesnt seem optimal for any club trying to make it the Champions League final.
3. Diego Simeones lineup
Simeone said in the press conference that he has doubts regarding his starting lineup. The doubts come about because of how similar his on-field positioning is to Mourinhos, so he is faced with the question of trying to surprise his opponent with an all attacking move, or give in to the chess-like stand-still that Mourinho will propose and that he is so good at winning.
Diego Ribas, Raul Garcia, Arda Turan or Mario Suarez will have to fight for two spots depending which kind of edge Simeone wants to give his team
4. Can Fernando Torres be the deciding factor at home?
Chelsea confirmed Samuel Etoo wont be available and the Cameroonian hasnt even traveled to Madrid. All signs point to Fernando Torres playing upfront for Chelsea on what will be his first visit to the Vicente Calderon Stadium since he left the team in 2007.
Demba Ba and Schurrle would be the other options, but Mourinho will most likely put his trust in the former Atletico Madrid icon, and hope that he can bring down his former team like he did Barcelona two years ago in the same round of the Champions League.
5. Mourinhos ace up his sleeve
No one knows if he has one, but he does. Jose Mourinho is perhaps professional soccers biggest perfectionist, and after qualifying to his fifth semifinal in five years, he is ready to make it to the final again (he managed to do this five years ago).
Although his style is very much like Simeones, Mourinho has a ton more experience in these kind of matches, and is a master tactician. He has studied Atletico Madrid very closely, and may have a few workarounds up his sleeve to make Atleticos almost perfect machine not work as well as it has so far.