Jose Mourinho has backed the qualities of Fernando Torres ahead of the striker’s return to a club to whom his connection remains deeply felt. With Samuel Eto’o remaining in London with a knee problem, Torres is expected to lead the line at the Vicente Calderon on Tuesday evening in the first leg of Chelsea’s Champions League semifinal with Atletico Madrid. Mourinho did not confirm that Torres would be in the starting lineup, but stated his full confidence in a player who came through the youth ranks at Atletico before going onto become their captain.
“I am not saying that Fernando is going to start, but he never hides,” Mourinho said, according to Chelsea’s official website. And every day we talk about Spanish football and he is a real Atletico supporter, and I have no doubts that the minutes he is on the pitch tomorrow, he is going to try to do everything for Chelsea like the fantastic professional he is.”
Unlike Eto’o and the suspended Branislav Ivanovic, Eden Hazard has made the trip to the Spanish capital. The Belgian, though, remains a major doubt with a calf injury suffered in the second leg of Chelsea’s quarterfinal victory over Paris Saint-Germain and was absent from training on the Vicente Calderon pitch on Monday. There should be no problems with Petr Cech, who has recovered from an illness that ruled him out of the defeat to Sunderland on Saturday.
For Mourinho it will be a return to a city where he has mixed memories to face a club who brought an ignominious end to his time at Real Madrid. Mourinho was sent to the stands as Atletico Madrid inflicted a defeat on Real Madrid at the Bernabeu to lift the Copa del Rey last May.
Since that win, Atletico have gone from strength to strength under the increasingly impressive tutelage of Diego Simeone. On a fraction of the budget of their leading rivals in Spain and on the continent, Atletico have reached the final weeks of the season top of La Liga and in their first semifinal of the European Cup in 40 years. Atletico have got to this point with a team based on an intense, counter-attacking style that bears certain resemblances with that employed by their opponents on Tuesday.
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“We are not the same teams but we have similar characteristics,” Simeone said, according to UEFA.com. “We have the best defensive records in our respective leagues, we both have good defenses and play a direct attacking game. We're both also good at set pieces. These characteristics have led to us each fighting for titles. But we will to assess how the season has been at end. We haven't won anything yet.”
Atletico have been boosted ahead of the game by a UEFA ruling meaning that they will be able to field on-loan Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, despite a reported clause in the loan agreement requiring Atletico to pay around £5 million.
“Thibaut Courtois's state of mind is the same as that of all his teammates,” Simeone explained. “They are all filled with enthusiasm. They know the importance of this match-- not just for them, but for the club.”
Atletico will have an almost full quota of players to choose from, with playmaker Arda Turan having returned to training.
D: Juanfran, Miranda, Godin, Filipe Luis
M: Arda, Gabi, Tiago, Koke
F: Diego Costa, Villa
D: Azpilicueta, Cahill, Terry, Cole
M: Ramires, David Luiz
Willian, Oscar, Schurrle
Where to watch: The first leg of the Champions League semifinal will kick off at 2:45 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by Fox Sports 1, with a live stream available on Fox Soccer 2Go.