Chelsea on top in Europe, but will Jose give title to Liverpool?
Goalless draw gives Blues Champions League initiative but they may sacrifice domestic ambitions
Atletico Madrid 0 Chelsea 0. It wasn't pretty but the goalless draw Chelsea earned in the first leg of their champions league semi-final with Atletico Madrid could prove priceless when the two sides meet again next Wednesday.
The Blues parked the proverbial bus in the Vicente Calderon and try as they might the Spanish side just couldn't find a way round it into the Chelsea goal. Even the departure of Petr Cech on 18 minutes with a dislocated shoulder didn't hand Atletico an advantage, and veteran keeper Mark Schwarzer deputised with his customary cool.
Cech's injury, and the foot wound suffered by John Terry in the second half were the only negatives on the night for Chelsea. According to manager Jose Mourinho neither will be fit for the return leg and Cech's season looks to be over.
Chelsea's negativity surprised no one. On the day David Moyes was sacked as manager of Manchester United, Mourinho gave a masterclass in pragmatism, his nous in stark contrast to the naivety that was the hallmark of Moyes' short-lived reign at Old Trafford.
Missing the injured duo Samuel Eto'o and Eden Hazard, and with Branislav Ivanovic suspended, Mourinho was never going to send out a side to win the match. All he wanted was to stop Atletico scoring and it was mission accomplished for the Special One. Despite dominating the match with 62 percent of possession and 26 shots at goal (compared to Chelsea's five), the home side couldn't break down the Blues' defence, leaving them angry and frustrated at the end of the encounter.
"Atletico wanted to win from start to finish," said captain Gabi. "We knew they would not concede a goal easily and we come away with a bad taste."
Mourinho had no qualms about his side's approach, telling reporters: "The game goes in a certain direction where you feel you have to be safe, don't concede and try to score in one of the few chances you create. We go with a result that decides everything at Stamford Bridge."
Between now and that second leg, Chelsea have the small matter of a trip to Liverpool on Sunday in a fixture that will have a huge bearing on the outcome of the Premier League. The Blues are five points behind leaders Liverpool and victory at Anfield would throw the title race wide open again, but asked if he intended to field a weakened side against the Reds, Mourinho replied: "I think I will do it... play the players that are not going to play next Wednesday."
He added that he would speak to the Chelsea board before making a final decision, but Mourinho made it clear he feels he has been backed into a corner by the Premier League because of their insistence the Blues play on Sunday.
"We represent English football and we are the only English team that is in European competition," said Mourinho. "We have a big match on Wednesday that can give Chelsea another Champions League final, we ask, ask and asked again to play on the Saturday... [but] the Premier League decide to put that Liverpool game on Sunday, when Liverpool refuse to play on a Saturday. It is a decision I have to make with the club, if the club wants to go with everything in direction of the Champions League I am ready for that."