Arsenal legend breaks down Chelsea v Atleti tactical battle, wants Blues through

Former Arsenal striker Alan Smith believes the Champions League semifinal between Chelsea and Atletico Madrid represents a great tactical battle.

At the official UEFA ceremony in Nyon, Switzerland earlier today, Friday, Chelsea drew Atletico Madrid with the first leg of their semifinal Champions League tussle to be contested at the Vicente Calderon Stadium - a set-up that will suit Blues boss Jose Mourinho, says former Arsenal striker Alan Smith, as the Portuguese will revel in having the second leg at Stamford Bridge while also content that he successfully avoided the attack of Real Madrid and the might of Bundesliga kings Bayern Munich.

"He'll feel fine," summarised Smith, 51, a UEFA Cup Winners Cup titlist from 1994.

However, the Englishman believes that, while the tournament favourites are arguably competing in the other semifinal, Atletico still represent dangerous opposition due to their defensive solidity and the fact that they are managed by a renowned strategist in Diego Simeone, who navigated a way past Barcelona without their ever-present goal-scorer Diego Costa.

"It's not a reason to rejoice as Atletico are many people's dark horses, with Diego Simeone and the way they've progressed through whilst not conceding but you don't want to face Bayern nor the attack of Real Madrid. [Mourinho will] take that all day long I think!"

Previous reports suggested that goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, on loan from Chelsea to Atletico, would not be available for the two legs as it could potentially cost the Spanish club up to £5m due to apparent contractual stipulations, however, this could effectively be over-ruled by UEFA, who believe the shot-stopper should be able to play for the Spanish side against his parent club.

"Chelsea may not feel too happy as it sets a precedent and in previous incidents, like the Celtic one [it was different], but they've come down hard on it. They spoke before the draw was made. I think the loan system needs to be adjusted, with who they can and can't play against. Chelsea would love for him to be on their bench [rather than starting] as he's one of the best in the world."

On facing Atletico in Spain first, Smith commented: "Most managers want to be home second so they know what they've got to face. It worked in their favour against PSG."

What about the tactical battle? Smith had more: "They are fairly similar in terms of defensive resolve. Simeone is a great tactician, disciplinarian, strong back four, two solid full backs who are protected well with holding midfielders.

"They will be tough to break down. At home, Simeone, with Costa, may be of the opinion you must score at home. They are not fully reliant with Costa, they got past Barcelona without him. This is fascinating. They can sit there and play on the counter with the pace of [Eden] Hazard and Willian and it will be such a tactical battle in Madrid."

Concluding, Smith said: "I think Bayern are the best team [but] I want to see Chelsea through. But from aesthetics, Real v Bayern would have been a nice final. I think Bayern will be the first club to retain though."

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