Play the penalties in tight semi

  • By: Ben Linfoot
  • Last Updated: April 30 2014, 21:14 BST

Ben Linfoot previews Wednesday's Champions League semi-final second-leg between Chelsea and Atletico.

It may prove hard to split Chelsea and Atletico
It may prove hard to split Chelsea and Atletico

Looking across the oddschecker grid for the Chelsea v Atletico Madrid 'to qualify' odds, all you can see is a sea of 10/11. Chelsea are evens in places, but generally, the layers have this as a pick 'em affair.

It's hard to argue with that assessment. Here we have two teams that have similar strengths; their coaches, their defences, their quality and on top of this both have developed a winning - or not losing - spirit as we approach the business end of the season.

Chelsea have had blips in the Premier League in March and April that look to have cost them the domestic title. The losses at Aston Villa, Crystal Palace and particularly the home defeat against Sunderland were damaging, but since that defeat at Stamford Bridge they have been defiant.

Last Tuesday, they of course went to the Vicente Calderon in the first leg of this tie and held Atletico to a 0-0 draw. They frustrated their opponents throughout the game and almost nicked a goal too - a goal that would've sealed a textbook European performance.

As it is, 0-0 at home isn't a bad result for Atletico. If the first leg is anything to go by, this is going to continue to be very tight and if Atletico do score, you fancy they'll go through.

Since the first leg, Diego Simeone's side have won 1-0 at Valencia to move a step closer to the La Liga title. Their ninth league win in a row, Atletico will win the league before they travel to Barcelona on the final day if they beat Levante and Malaga.

In the Premier League, Chelsea won 2-0 at Liverpool to blow the title race wide open. While it is unlikely they will benefit themselves, the way they frustrated Brendan Rodgers' side with a team that will be largely unrecognisable to the one that takes the pitch on Wednesday is a stark warning to Simeone.

The question is, will Chelsea play the same way at home as they have done in their last two away performances?

It's harder to play negatively on your own patch, with the crowd, the occasion and the carrot of a Champions League final all likely to squeeze out more attacking instincts.

But this is Mourinho and I wouldn't expect much to change from the first leg. Chelsea's strengths are undoubtedly in their organisation and they aren't going to leave themselves open to Atletico, who have been deadly away from home in Spain and in Europe this campaign.

The big difference between Atletico and Chelsea this season has been Diego Costa. While Chelsea's strikers have struggled, Costa has bagged 34 goals in the Champions League and La Liga combined.

The thing with Costa is I'm not sure he's 100 per cent match fit. Since he went off with a hamstring injury in the first leg against Barcelona in the quarters he hasn't looked himself and was particularly subdued, for him, against Chelsea last week.

It's a concern, as is the absence of skipper Gabi who is suspended. Mind you, Chelsea have plenty of absentees of their own - although there are reports of miracle recoveries for Petr Cech and John Terry, a duo that had been previously ruled out of the game.

It's all set up perfectly, and if you hadn't guessed I'm finding it very hard to call.

Having tipped Atletico at 40/1 at the outset my heart and wallet are with Diego Simeone's men, and if you're financially involved in the outright market there's no need to get involved further.

However, from a stand alone point of view the 25/1 on offer about both teams winning on penalties makes plenty of appeal.

It's 10/1 about the game going to penalties so dutching the 25s makes sense, especially when you consider 'no goalscorer' in 90 minutes is a 13/2 chance.

You're effectively getting almost double the odds about that outcome stretching out for another 30 minutes and the way these two will be set up it wouldn't surprise in the slightest.