Antonio Conte and Diego Simeone’s game of chess ends with a Chelsea Victory – Fabregas

Antonio Conte and Diego Simeone’s game of chess ends with a Chelsea Victory – Fabregas


After 15 years at the very top of the game, Cesc Fabregas knows a good manager when he sees one. So it was no surprise when he was asked prior to Wednesday’s Champions League meeting.

“They have their own football philosophy and want players who are with them to the end,” he sagely remarked.  “Both have achieved that. Everything [Conte] tells us is working out, and that strengthens his position with the group. says Fabregas”

Two champion players. Two champion managers. Two natural born winners.

An even cursory look at the way Diego Simeone explodes in and out of his technical area shows why so many Chelsea fans have welcomed talk of the fiery Argentine one day swapping the Spanish capital for the English equivalent.

El Cholo’s’ aggression, enthusiasm, and verve for the game would appear to be a perfect fit for the cut, thrust and blood, and guts of the Premier League.

And what better place than Chelsea, where a passionate, larger than life character already prowls the touchline, he too both in and outside where he is supposed to be. They even look the same, both dressed to the nines, one complete with a white shirt, one black.

Sartorial similarities aside these are two of the premier football minds in the game today and, as such, were always likely to produce a tactical masterclass and so it proved, an 11 on 11 games of chess, with each man’s move and counter move always under the watchful eye of the other.

It was something of a surprise then, given their collective nous, that Chelsea dominated from the get-go with Antonio Conte’s shift from his usual midfield two to more of a three stifling Atleti’s own pair in the middle of the park.

Victor Moses was running uninhibited down the right flank with Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco seemingly far keener to exploit the space left behind by the Nigerian than assisting the ailing Filipe Luis the other way.

Eden Hazard, the game’s best player, was finding space in that uniquely ethereal manner he so often does and had Alvaro Morata done better with two almost identical early chances then the hosts could have been behind. Atleti were on the ropes and Chelsea in the ascendancy.

But as he has shown time and time before Simeone countered and a shift of his own – from 4-4-2 to 4-3-3 – saw the hosts finally assert themselves. For that is what the great coaches do. He watched. He assessed. He reacted.

That Atleti’s goal came from a Chelsea mistake is the beauty of sport. David Luiz inexplicably manhandled Lucas Hernandez at a corner and Antoine Griezmann dispatched the resulting penalty. The best-laid plans wrecked by a rogue Brazilian fistful of shirt.

But, like his opponent had done not 20 minutes earlier, the Italian responded. Fabregas moved further back, Hazard wider and it was from a cross, a quite wonderful one from the masterful Belgian, that Morata emphatically headed home the equalizer on the hour mark.

The champions were emboldened and Conte, not content with a point, reverted back to Plan A with Fabregas once again moved closer to Atleti’s goal.

But it was from another change, this time from the bench, that saw Chelsea dramatically win it at the death, substitute Michy Batshuayi, a late addition for goalscorer Morata, firing in with the last kick of the game. Conte was victorious, Simeone checkmated.

“He [Conte] says what will happen, and it happens exactly.” Fabregas could scarcely have been more right.

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