Atletico Madrid (+120) vs Chelsea (+278), Draw (+238)
We’ve got a group-defining moment coming up next Wednesday (September 27th) when Atletico Madrid (0-1-0, 1 pt) host Chelsea (1-0-0, 3 pts) in a pivotal Group C match in the 2017-18 Champions League Group Stage. With Roma, Atletico, and Chelsea all jockeying for the top two spots in the group — and a place in the Knockout Stage — every point is vital.
The first set of Group C fixtures held few surprises. Chelsea humiliated Azerbaijani side Qarabag FK, thrashing them 6-0, while Atletico outplayed Roma but were forced to settle for a 0-0 draw. The Blues put on an impressive display but pummelling the little-known Topaz Premyer Liqası side was expected.
Meanwhile, poor finishing and spectacular goalkeeping denied Atleti the full three points against Roma. Midfielder Saul Niguez came inches from snatching a goal in the dying minutes of added time, but he was denied first by the keeper and then by the woodwork.
Domestically, both sides are off to a decent but unremarkable start to the season. Chelsea opened with an embarrassing 3-2 loss against Burnley, but recovered nicely with wins against Tottenham (2-1), Everton (2-0), and Leicester (2-1). Most recently, they drew 0-0 against Arsenal.
Atletico Madrid have two wins and two draws to their name so far. Their draws — 2-2 against Girona and 0-0 against Valencia — were missed opportunities and they can’t afford to drop too many points if they’re going to challenge the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona for the title.
Looming over this match is the debacle concerning Diego Costa. The Chelsea striker and former Atletico top goalscorer is trying to force a move back to Madrid. Atletico have reportedly made a final bid for their former star, but Chelsea have yet to respond. As it stands, Costa has not played for Chelsea this season and it’s unlikely that he will. This is already a crucial game for both sides, and the extra drama created by Costa adds a little more significance.
Sportsbooks are giving Atletico a strong home-field advantage, which makes sense. Atletico were notoriously difficult to beat at Vicente Calderón and that’s unlikely to change at their new home, Wanda Metropolitano. But the transfer ban has weakened Atletico and Chelsea are looking pretty strong at the moment (albeit not as strong as last season). It’s a close call, but I’m inclined to side with the defending champs of England given the big payout potential.
Pick: Chelsea (+278)