5 keys for Atletico Madrid – Chelsea in the Champions League

There’s no more time for excuses as the semifinals of the Champions League get underway. Atletico Madrid and Chelsea are probably the most similar teams…
5 keys for Atletico Madrid – Chelsea in the Champions League

There’s 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 there’s one huge difference between them: About $250 million worth of yearly budget leaning the balance towards Mourinho’s squad.

Here the five keys for one of the most awaited match up in Europe this season:

1. Will Thibaut Courtois finally play?

In this photo taken on April 9, 2014, Atletico goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois holds onto the ball after making a save during the Champions League quarterfinal second leg soccer match between Atletico Madrid and FC Barcelona in the Vicente Calderon stadium in Madrid, Spain. (AP Photo/Paul White)

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 season’s loan deal.

2. Eden Hazard’s 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 there’s no saying whether or not he will be able to start at Calderon Stadium.

Even if he does, there’s 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 doesn’t seem optimal for any club trying to make it the Champions League final.

SEE ALSO: 5 reasons why Atletico Madrid can dream of the Champions League

3. Diego Simeone’s lineup

Diego Simeone's Atletico Madrid is having a great run in the Champions League.

Atletico Madrid’s Diego Pablo Simeone, from Argentina, attends a press conference at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Monday, March 31, 2014. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

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 Mourinho’s, 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 Eto’o won’t be available and the Cameroonian hasn’t 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.

SEE ALSO: Jose Mourinho proves his worth: 5th Champions semifinal in a row

5. Mourinho’s ace up his sleeve

Jose Mourinho is taking a new approach with Chelsea.

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho arrives for his team’s training session at Cobham training ground, in Cobham, England, Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013 ahead of their Champions League group soccer match against Schalke on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

No one knows if he has one, but he does. Jose Mourinho is perhaps professional soccer’s 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 Simeone’s, 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 Atletico’s almost perfect machine not work as well as it has so far.