Chelsea may well have secured their progress to the Round of 16 after a comfortable win over Qarabag on Matchday 5 but they will look to complete the task in hand this evening when they play host to Atletico Madrid, that task of course being securing top spot and therefore earning a potentially easier draw in the New Year.
Antonio Conte’s men were given a small scrare in Baku when Michel hit the bar early on but once the Azerbaijani champions were reduced to 10 men in the first half and a penalty was awarded against them, one that Eden Hazard subsequently scored from then the defending Premier League champions never looked back.
They were also given something of a fright on Saturday as they went behind at home to Newcastle thanks to Dwight Gayle’s early goal which would put Rafa Benitez’s men ahead. However this was not a lead that would last for too long with Eden Hazard and Alvaro Morata overturning the deficit before half time.
And it would be Hazard who would go onto score a second after the break to wrap up all the three points, in a week where Belgium and England have been paired together in next Summer’s World Cup he would have sent out an early warning sign to Gareth Southgate’s men as to what he is capable of.
To be fair though it is no secret of what the former Lille man can do and he may well have left the field with a hat-trick on Saturday afternoon but unfortunately for him he was foiled by Karl Darlow. He didn’t leave with the match ball but he did leave to a standing ovation after being subbed off before the end.
All Chelsea can do on a domestic front is hope that Manchester City slip up and offer them a way to get back into the title race, at this point this seems unlikely and therefore they may well feel that the Champions League could offer them the silverware they are looking for this season.
For the teams not in Manchester it seems as if the plan is focus more on the Champions League while not missing out on the top four, obviously that is a difficult balancing act and respective managers need to be careful not to put too many eggs in their continental basket.
But while Chelsea still feel they have something to offer they will not wave the white flag domestically just yet but tonight the focus is purely on the visit of Atletico Madrid who come here needing a win and hoping that Qarabag can do them a huge favour.
The odds are stacked against Diego Simeone’s men for the combination of both to happen, I don’t think a win is necessarily out of reach but asking favours of Qarabag just highlights how disappointing Atletico’s campaign has been this season as they prepare to drop down to the Europa League after Christmas.
Incredibly Atletico are still unbeaten in La Liga after fourteen matches but it is the fact that they have drawn six of them which has been their undoing, they find themselves six points league leaders Barcelona while two points ahead of cross town rivals Real.
Chelsea cannot afford to take their foot of the gas and Atletico cannot afford to lose so it should make for an interesting clash, however I think it will be Antonio Conte’s men who come out on top for the second time this season against Atletico and secure top spot in Group C.
Here is what social media thinks will happen – you can still vote on the outcome
— Dan Tracey (@dantracey1983) December 5, 2017