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Atletico v Chelsea: Hazard part of three tactical conundrums to exploit

| 22.04.2014

Jose Mourinho prepares for a fifth successive Champions League semi final, with his Chelsea side the underdogs at 11/10 to qualify at the expense of Atletico Madrid (8/11).

A positive result in Spain will give Chelsea a great chance of playing in the Lisbon final and below are three tactical situations that Mourinho may want to play close attention to.

In terms of match betting at the Vicente Calderon, Atletico are the 17/20 favourites for victory, Chelsea’s odds are 19/5 and the draw can be backed at 23/10.

How much will Chelsea’s full backs push on?

Unlike Everton, Liverpool and Barcelona, Chelsea are not as prone as some for allowing their full-backs to consistently pile forward on the overlap to create an extra man in attack.

Branislav Ivanovic is a central defender by trade that is far from a natural when it comes to beating an opponent and delivering a teasing cross. On the other side, Cesar Azpilicueta rarely advances beyond the half-way line.

With Ivanovic suspended here, Ashley Cole will likely come in to the defence and his greater willingness to attack may aid Atletico striker Diego Costa, who is no stranger to running the channels and making use of space vacated by advanced full-backs.

Raul Garcia v Ashley Cole

Perhaps the biggest tactical positive of Atletico’s 1-0 home victory over Barcelona in the quarter final was the aerial success achieved by Raul Garcia against Jordi Alba.

Cole is slightly taller than Alba and a better defender, but may still have difficulty in the air against Atletico’s versatile midfielder.

There is every possibility that Thibaut Courtois and Atletico’s defenders will target Cole when playing the longer ball, with Garcia potentially having headers towards goal as a result or knocking down for on-rushing midfielders.

Garcia is 7/1 to score first and 9/4 to score at any time in the 90 minutes. He already has 12 goals in all competitions this season.

Will Eden Hazard start and play as a number 10?

Eden Hazard has far from fully recovered from a calf injury and missed open training ahead of this semi final first leg, but he has travelled with his Chelsea teammates and may well play a part at the Vicente Calderon.

What Chelsea could benefit from, especially in central areas, is a player with the ability to beat a man, given Atletico’s compactness through their two holding central midfielders.

Hazard has tended to play from the left this season, but he could be of more use here as a number 10, slipping beyond an opponent and then looking to free another forward.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Craig Kemp

Craig has written for Ladbrokes since the 2010 World Cup, having previously gained a Media & Sports Journalism degree and contributed to publications including the Racing Post. His main areas of interest are horse racing and UFC, but he is also an avid X Factor gambler and likes nothing more than indulging in a spot of Hip Hop Karaoke.