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Apr 222014
Are we at all surprised? Seriously. When the balls came through at the selection ceremony did you look around for Michel Platini and wish you were anywhere near the little Frenchman to smack him upside the head? This was always going to happen if you've watched either club throughout their modern existence. It was a dour game from any point of view, and no I don't subscribe to this process of football or anti-football anymore, they are all valid in the context of preparing for a match, so I won't rail against either coach for not attacking more or displaying more effectiveness on the ball or off of it. Jose Mourinho famously wants to keep the first leg of a Champions League tight and if it is an away match he wants to leave the opponent needing to win away to continue on. It is his minimal scoreline. 

Diego Simeone knows this, because as much as the Spanish press have concentrated on the miraculous job he's done to wrangle the habitually dysfunctional Atleti dressing-room by sheer force of will and personality to his purposes, he's a real tactician as well. This is no failure for Los Colchoneros eitherThe mattress-makers of Madrid are an away goal from going through to the Champions League final and considering their continued and mounting success in Europe over the last 5 years you can't count them out.

Atletico de Madrid are no wilting flower to come into Stamford Bridge and be intimidated by the atmosphere or the chanting, or the blistering English pace or hard-hitting defense. Quite frankly, Simeone is from a long-line of Argentine managers who popularized this very same style that Jose Mourinho has staked his claim to. He's a disciple of Carlos Bilardo who played in that infamous Intercontinental Cup against Manchester United in the 1968 where the South Americans were called "animals" by legendary coach Sir Alf Ramsey.

As much as this does nothing to hurt Chelsea of continuing on, it's a pretty good scoreline for Atletico Madrid as well. One away goal nicked in the first quarter of the first half, a preferred tactic of the Argentine, and their equally effective "double-decker bus" parked in the Shed End can see them go through as well.

Either way I predict next week's draw in West London will be a much more exciting match than this very dull heavy-weight fight between two equally matched contenders.
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The Ball is Flat is a website and podcast devoted to the Beautiful Game. Football, Futbol, Fusball or whatever you call it, it is the game that divides and unites us. The Ball is Flat's mission is to cover European football with an eye open, the heart in motion, and the brain colored with the right amount of cheerful cynicism. Read more:

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