Spain Soccer Champions League

Three things we learned from Atletico Madrid vs. Chelsea

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Following Chelsea’s 0-0 draw with Atletico Madrid on Tuesday at the Vicente Calderon, the Blues grabbed exactly what they wanted from the first leg of their UEFA Champions League semifinal.

Jose Mourinho set his side up to defend and frustrate Atleti, and the boys from West London did that superbly. The Special One is a master at manufacturing these kind of performances.

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It is all square heading into the second leg at Stamford Bridge next Wednesday, as both teams will be happy with a winner-takes-all battle.

Here are three things we learned from a tight first leg of this Champions League semifinal.

Chelsea revert to Plan A: Defend

The best defense in the Premier League stuck to what it knows best away in Madrid: defend, defend, defend. Analyzing Jose Mourinho’s lineup before kick off, you could see what his intentions would be. David Luiz and John Obi Mikel (who incidentally were both celebrating their 27th birthday’s on Tuesday) both sat in front of the back four, as Chelsea’s water-tight defense became virtually impassable. Diego and Rui Garcia were starved off space in front of Chelsea’s backline, as Mikel and Luiz snapped at the heels of Atletico’s attackers. In a week where they lost at home to Sunderland, then have a massive clash against Liverpool at Anfield, Mourinho’s men went back to basics. It worked, handsomely. The Blues let Diego Simeone’s men have it wide and congested the space in the box, which suffocated Diego Costa’s ability to wriggle and writhe between central defenders. Chelsea showed no real intent going forward, as long balls pumped aimlessly towards Fernando Torres the entire game were too easy for Atleti to handle. Defensively, it was the kind of performance you would show to youth teams on tape time and time again.

 MORE FROM SOCCERLY: Tactical match puts onus upon next week

Lampard, Mikel out of second leg, Cech and Terry injured

After just 18 minutes Petr Cech was heading towards the sidelines, a push from David Luiz saw Rui Garcia bundle into Cech as the Chelsea ‘keeper fell awkwardly (reportedly dislocating his shoulder) and had to be replaced by Mark Schwarzer. In the second half Frank Lampard was handed a yellow card that rules him out of the second leg, then John Terry hobbled off after his ankle was trampled on by Diego Costa and then against Luiz’s foot to end his night. Then Mikel was booked, as he’ll miss the second leg too with suddenly a whole host of players potentially out for the Blues. Jose Mourinho can’t be ultra-defensive at home, so whether Mikel or Lampard would’ve played next Wednesday at Stamford Bridge is doubtful. What is more concerning are the injuries to Cech and Terry, especially with the game against Liverpool to come on Sunday, as it looks like both men face lengthy spells on the sidelines. Progress into the UCL final should be the main priority, so expect to see Chelsea leave out a few of their key players when they head to Anfield this weekend.

Experience rules

It’s not that Atletico’s team aren’t full of experienced players, because they are. Most are in their late 20’s, they only had three players 25 or under (Diego Costa, Koke and Thibaut Courtois) and most have been around the block a few times. Yet never in the Champions League semifinals. Chelsea’s players looked at ease in the pressure-cooker atmosphere of the Vicente Calderon. John Terry, Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard… they have decades of Champions League experience between them and their calm persona proved vital against Atletico. Little flicks around the corner here, shirt pulls and arms cleverly placed around the shoulders there, JT and co. did a job on Atletico. Chelsea knew they had to counter-attack Atletico’s exuberance by plugging gaps, running themselves into the ground and staying tight and compact. They did just that, as Atletico were left frustrated, while Chelsea were happy to thwart their Spanish opponents.

Borja goal leads Atletico Nacional to Copa Libertadores title (video)

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Get into space and good things will happen.

That’s how Miguel Borja scored the goal that gave Atletico Nacional an edge that would stand up in the Copa Libertadores final on Wednesday in Medellin.

Borja’s goal gave Atletico Nacional a 1-0 win over Independiente del Valle in Wednesday’s second leg after a 1-1 first leg in Quito.

[ MORE: Wilshere likes Arsenal’s chances ]

Colombia’s Los Verdolagas hadn’t won a Copa Libertadores title since 1989, and the match was its first final since 1995. It was Ecuadorian side Independiente del Valle’s first final.

Atletico Nacional’s Orlando Berrio traded goals with Independiente’s Arturo Mina in the first leg.

Two Newcastle players set for combined $60 million from Barca, Real Madrid?

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 28:  Newcastle player Jack Colback (r) celebrates his goal with Ayoze Perez (l) and Moussa Sissoko during the Barclays Premier League match between Newcastle United and Everton at St James' Park on December 28, 2014 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
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Newcastle United purchased Moussa Sissoko and Ayoze Perez from Toulose and Tenerife for combined fees of approximately $4 million.

They stand to make a whole lot more if Wednesday’s rumors are true.

Multiple reports say Real Madrid is set to bid $40 million to pry French international Sissoko from St. James Park, while Barcelona is ready to spend about $20 million to get Ayoze Perez as the fourth fiddle to its MSN attacking trio.

[ MORE: Wilshere likes Arsenal’s chances ]

Perez, 22, has scored 13 goals in two Premier League seasons with the Magpies after arriving from Segunda Division side Tenerfie in 2014, and was linked to Spurs amongst other locales.

But Barca has had trouble finding a player interested in being its fourth striker. Pedro left for Chelsea before last season, and players like Robin Van Persie and Luciano Vietto were tipped to join Barca earlier this summer.

Sissoko, meanwhile, was a feast or famine player at Newcastle this season but brought his A-game under the bright lights of EURO 2016 this summer. Real is reported to be giving up on Paul Pogba to focus on his French midfield mate.

As for Newcastle, Rafa Benitez probably planned on losing Sisssoko but Perez had worked well in preseason with new signing Dwight Gayle and was expected to be a factor this year. It could send Rafa back to the transfer mill, and he’d sure have some profit to spend.

PSG’s Meunier fires a laser versus Real Madrid in ICC match (video)

COLUMBUS, OH - JULY 27:  Thomas Meunier #12 of Paris Saint-Germain F.C is congratulated by Serge Aurier #19 of Paris Saint-Germain F.C after scoring a goal during the first half of the game against Real Madrid C.F. on July 27, 2016 at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
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Thomas Meunier is feeling it this summer.

The 6-foot-4 right back had a tremendous EURO for Belgium, and now is starting hot for Paris Saint-Germain after moving from Club Brugge.

[ MORE: Wilshere likes Arsenal’s chances ]

Facing Real Madrid in the International Champions Cup on Wednesday, Meunier scored a pair of first half goals including this absolute laser to beat Kiko Casilla.

Arsenal’s Wilshere: “Hopefully we can go better this year and win it”

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 15:  Jack Wilshere of Arsenal looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Aston Villa at the Emirates Stadium on May 15, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
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Arsenal star Jack Wilshere is excited about the developments at his club and country.

The English midfielder, 24, has a new coach for his country in ex-Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce, and a new big-money teammate in Granit Xhaka.

[ MORE: Immobile finds new team ]

Both moves have him feeling good, and Wilshere is looking to inch his club one spot higher in the Premier League table this season.

From MLSSoccer.com:

“This year is going to be interesting. There are six or seven teams who could potentially challenge for the trophy. Man United have got a new manager, [Manchester] City have got a new manager; both managers are known for winning things wherever they go. And Chelsea as well. And then there are Leicester City, who are going to have to deal with a totally different pressure of being champions last year,” he said.

“We feel we’ve got better as well,” Wilshere continued. “Over the year we finished fourth, then third, then second. Hopefully we can go better than that this year and win it.”

With the big pick-ups at Man City and United amongst other clubs, Arsenal’s low-key offseason has made many forget that the Gunners return almost everyone from their second place finish next year. What chance do you give them of seizing a title?