It’s fair to state that the Champions League semi-finals could hardly have come around at a better time for La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid, while the opposite is surely true of their opponents Chelsea.
Los Colchoneros – who are 18/25 to qualify for their first final in 40 years and a shade longer at 3/4 to win at home – have put a mid-season wobble behind them by going unbeaten over their last 11 fixtures in all competitions, winning ten of them.
Chelsea, on the other hand, have lost four of their past nine fixtures – including three of their last four on the road – and look out of the Premier League title race after Liverpool raced five points clear at the top over the weekend.
The Champions League – which Chelsea lifted in 2012 and Mourinho has claimed twice with other clubs – now looks the only way to avert a trophyless campaign at Stamford Bridge at 11/2, but lady luck has not dealt the Special One a nap hand ahead of their first-leg clash with Atleti.
Samuel Eto’o didn’t travel to Madrid and Eden Hazard is a major doubt, having missed his side’s two fixtures since hobbling off in the 18th minute of their dramatic 2-0 home win against Paris Saint-Germain in the last round of this competition.
Eto’o in particular will be a huge loss, as the Cameroon veteran has opened the scoring in four of his last six appearances for Chelsea, while Hazard is the west Londoners’ top scorer this season with 17 goals in all comps.
With their other goal-threats proving unreliable – third top-scorer Oscar has failed to find the net in 15 of his last 16 outings – Mourinho will likely flood the Vicente Calderon midfield with runners and some-time centre-backs.
Said tactics worked wonders away to Manchester City earlier this season, but with midfield bruiser Nemanja Matic cup-tied, Mourinho may be forced to recall John Obi Mikel to the starting lineup for the first time in 13 matches.
Hazard’s likely absence could be good news for Andre Schurrle, who scored within 15 minutes of coming on for the Belgian at home to PSG and the Germany man is 15/4 to bag for the second successive Champions League match against Diego Simeone’s side.