Join Now | 
HomeAboutContact UsPrivacy & SecurityAdvertise
Soccer America DailySpecial EditionAround The NetSoccer Business InsiderCollege Soccer ReporterYouth Soccer ReporterSoccer on TVSoccer America Classifieds
Paul Gardner: SoccerTalkSoccer America ConfidentialYouth Soccer InsiderWorld Cup Watch
RSS FeedsArchivesManage SubscriptionsSubscribe
Order Current IssueSubscribeManage My SubscriptionRenew My SubscriptionGift Subscription
My AccountJoin Now
Tournament CalendarCamps & AcademiesSoccer GlossaryClassifieds
Atletico's run has earned Mourinho's respect
by Ridge Mahoney, April 29th, 2014 10:51PM

MOST READ
TAGS:  uefa champions league

MOST COMMENTED

[UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE] The long unbeaten streak at Stamford Bridge under Jose Mourinho has ended and in that ancient stadium is where Chelsea will try to reach its second Champions League final in three seasons.

A 0-0 tie in the first leg at the Estadio Vicente Calderon last week leaves the slate clean for Chelsea and Atletico Madrid to meet again Wednesday (2:45 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1).

Several Chelsea players have recovered from injuries and with the homefield advantage the Blues will be favored, though any scoring tie sends Atletico into the final on the away goals rule. Only if the 90 minutes ends 0-0 can there be overtime.

Chelsea seemingly squandered its chance at the Premier League title April 18 when it lost at home to Sunderland, 2-1, snapping Mourinho’s 77-match unbeaten run in all competitions at the Bridge. But a spectacular 2-0 victory at Liverpool Sunday kept its hopes, as well as those of Manchester City, alive.

Raul Garcia scored the only goal Atletico needed last weekend to win its league match, 1-0, at Valencia. It is unbeaten in its last nine games domestically and 14 overall and is on course to end the stranglehold of Barcelona and Real Madrid on La Liga title.

Atletico took 25 shots in the first leg but against Chelsea was unable to beat keeper Petr Cech nor his backup, Mark Schwarzer, who stepped in when Cech departed with an injured shoulder. Before the whistle sounded defender, John Terry had also gone off yet the wall of Chelsea players in their defensive third stood firm.

There will many more attacking options for Chelsea in the second leg. The return of Samuel Eto'o and Eden Hazard, named Sunday as the Young Player of the Year by the Professional Footballers’ Association, adds 29 goals -- 17 by Hazard -- to the Chelsea arsenal. Eto’o is in the right place to contribute; he’s scored all 12 of his goals this season at Stamford Bridge. Yet Mourinho must also shore up his midfield with Frank Lampard and John Obi Mikel suspended.

Mourinho praised the city rival he once butted heads with several times a season. Atlético last reached the semifinal of this competition 40 years ago but is sailing atop La Liga and most observers give it a fair chance to book a spot in Lisbon as well.

“Atlético were my direct rivals for three seasons but I always felt a relationship of respect with the club,” said Mourinho Tuesday. “I have respect for what they are doing because to be in a Champions League semifinal is not for every club, and to have the possibility of winning the league against Barcelona and Real Madrid is something that deserves my respect.”

Hazard suffered a calf strain during Chelsea’s 2-0 defeat of Paris St. Germain in the quarterfinals. His return will add speed, width and guile to the Chelsea attack, which in the first leg against Atlético as well as Liverpool didn’t generate many chances. The cautious, defensive game plans in those games triggered blistering criticism of Mourinho’s tactics, though any other approach Sunday against a team that leads the Premier League with 96 goals would have been naive. Chelsea is the best defensive team with only 26 goals allowed. In Champions League play, Chelsea has scored four fewer goals, 18, than Atletico’s 22.

Mourinho is staunchly defended by his players, especially Terry, who probably took the termination of his first stint with the club harder than anyone else.

“He's the first one there in the morning and the last one to go often,” said Terry after Tuesday’s training session. “That's noticed by the players. We love him to bits. We realize he's been very successful for a reason: he demands 100 percent from his players every day. If you're not giving that, he'll be honest and let you know. That's him. We accept that and love him to bits. We enjoy working with him.”

Atletico coach Diego Simeone is one of the most praised managers in the European game and a desirable hire for many clubs in the offseason. His team has allowed the fewest goals in the Champions League, just five in 11 matches, without sacrificing its firepower. Though Diego Costa has lost a bit of form the past few weeks, he has scored 27 goals in La Liga and seven in the Champions League. Next on the Euro list is Garcia with four.

For his part, Simeone knows he’s up against a master tactician whose vision and strategy of the game can only be fairly evaluated through results.

“I'm a football man,” said Simeone, who played 106 times for Argentina and during his club career spent three seasons at Atletico. “I respect different ways of setting out your team. It's about what's the best way for a specific game or a specific opposition. To defend well is not easy, so I congratulate teams who do that well. To attack well isn't easy, either. So you have to congratulate managers who get their sides doing that. Football evolves. There is no 'best way.' It depends on the manager spending time with his players, talking different set-ups and tactics, different approaches and styles.”

 



No comments yet.

Sign in to leave a comment. Don't have an account? Join Now




AUTHORS

ARCHIVES
FOLLOW SOCCERAMERICA

Recent Soccer America Daily
Woodwork can't hold down USA     
[CONCACAF WOMEN'S CHAMPIONSHIP] About the only thing that stood in the way of the U.S. women's ...
Fire goes out with late win over Houston    
[MLS: Friday] Frenchman Florent Sinama-Pongolle made sure Chicago did not finish the MLS season with another ...
James' skills highlight Real Madrid pre-clasico practice    
[VIDEO PICK: Skills] The Real Madrid-Barcelona clasico delivers entertainment even before kickoff. Here's a 40-second peek ...
What They're Saying: Luis Suarez    
"Everyone has different ways of defending themselves. In my case, the pressure and tension came out ...
Ft. Lauderdale is ready for challenge against red-hot Eddies    
[NASL: Week 16] Minnesota United FC and the 2013 champion New York Cosmos played to a ...
Finlay signs new deal with Columbus    
[MLS TRANSACTIONS] For helping drive Columbus into the playoffs after a two-year absence, midfielder Ethan Finlay ...
Referee suspended after felony arrest on fraud charges    
[MLS SPOTLIGHT] Referee Jose Carlos Rivero, who has worked 17 MLS matches in 2014, has been ...
Wambach nominated for Women's Player of the Year    
[AWARDS] Abby Wambach, who leads the U.S. women with 10 goals but is no longer a ...
Soccer America Men's Top 25 Scoreboard    
[ROUNDUP: Thursday] Seyi Adekoya teamed up with fellow freshman Chase Gasper to break a 1-1 tie ...
What They're Saying: Sunil Gulati    
"None of this is personal. Some things could have been phrased differently because the actual opinions ...
>> Soccer America Daily Archives