In the wake of the weekend's comprehensive, if not universally lauded, 2-0 victory over Liverpool, many were expecting another tactical master class from Jose Mourinho to inspire his Chelsea side to yet another European final.
Yet, much as Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich managed the night before, this was instead a rather mesmerising capitulation from arguably the favourites.
Whilst in the build-up to Sunday’s match at Anfield Jose claimed to be resting players for this return leg at Atletico, it didn’t appear to have don him any favours as the Blues’ crashed to a 3-1 defeat.
There are many reasons as to why Chelsea lost a 1-0 lead to go crashing out of the Champions League, and in contrast to Sunday, Mourinho is responsible for a questionable team selection that jarred against his chosen tactics.
In total, six natural defenders started the match for Chelsea, yet they showed a great deal of attacking abandon in their desire to score a decisive goal against their Spanish counterparts. With Gary Cahill, David Luiz, John Terry, Branislav Ivanovic, Ashley Cole and Cesar Azpilicueta all starting, the openness with which Chelsea attacked early on did not seem to suit the rather conservative player selection, and for this Mourinho’s side would pay the ultimate price.
In the aftermath, Eden Hazard complained of having to carry his team, and when you have only a perennially out-of-sorts Torres and the energetic but elusive Willian for company, it can certainly seem like a lonely furrow at times for the mercurial Belgian.
It is clear that Mourinho, a mater of the defensive arts but considerably more cautious when it comes to exhibiting attacking brilliance, was caught in two minds over how to approach this game, his side being the home team, yet arguably not quite strong enough to best the current La Liga leaders in an open, head-head contest.
Yet what unfolded was an obviously defensively-minded group of players attempting to express themselves with freedom and instead conceding several avoidable, but arguably deserved goals to once again go crashing out of Europe’s premier competition.
In future, it is certain that Mourinho will not again be indecisive about his game plan- at no point did his side looks even remotely concerned at the mouting scoreline, and in fact barely deserved their opening goa, although Thibaut Courtois still managed to shine even more brightly against his current owners, as if proving a point we all learnt a long, long time ago.
It is obvious then, that Mourinho has a great deal more crafting to do on both his squad and his tactics in order to return consistent silverware to Stamford Bridge. Whilst impressive in its tactical wizardry, the 2-0 dismantling of Liverpool displayed only one side of Mourinho.
If greater rewards are to be reaped, he must soon demonstrate his attacking prowess in order to scale previous heights once again.
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