Atletico Madrid must ditch defensive shackles to overthrow Chelsea

Joao Felix is a forward that has been given a lot of focus in Chelsea’s preparation for Wednesday, but it’s telling that there have been more concerns about him within Atletico Madrid. Many sources say the Portuguese is disgruntled with his constrained role under Diego Simeone, to the point his camp have been investigating potential summer moves to the Premier League. It also felt so conspicuous he was put up for the pre-game press conference.

Some of the problem could be summed up in the first leg. Felix spent the majority of the game 70 yards from goal, mostly defending. It didn’t feel like the best use of one of football’s most promising young forwards.

Then again, this entire tie could offer something of a referendum on the best approach to Champions League knock-outs, not to mention Simeone’s own future.

It should be acknowledged that the 1-0 first-leg defeat was a bit of an aberration in Atletico’s season, since the signing of Luis Suarez has generally seen them play about 30 yards higher up the pitch. Even that, however, has still been within a tactical framework based on defensive solidity and reaction – not to mention the Uruguayan doing something out of nothing.

The big question for this game is whether Atletico are capable of sufficiently shifting approach to be attacking enough to overturn a first-leg deficit.

That uncertainty in turn reflects the relative uncertainty surrounding Simeone’s career right now, as well as an increasing fragility in their position at the top of the Spanish league.

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