Chelsea set the blueprint for Ralf Rangnick to unleash Cristiano Ronaldo in the Champions League – Anita Abayomi



As the old Twitter saying goes, I guess beating Atletico Madrid is not for everyone.

Manchester United took on Atletico Madrid in their round 16 Champions League clash and failed to do what Chelsea had done exactly one year ago.

The Spanish Champions had a tough time facing Thomas Tuchel’s team last season. Exactly a year later, they were tasked to meet yet another English team. This time, they were ahead of the curve.

Man United go into their second leg all squared with Atletico, and they will need to see out the tie at their home ground. It just makes you appreciate how well Tuchel was able to wrap up the tie in the first leg. Maybe the Godfather of ‘gegenpress’ should take a look at how his graduate was able to get the better of the Madrista’s.

Last season, Chelsea took on the then La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid and schooled them. Against all the odds, Tuchel came into Chelsea with fresh ideas and installed a new mindset within the group. The Blues managed to break down a tough, low block, with Olivier Giroud delivering a spectacular goal. He managed to bypass the offside allegations with a bicycle kick to send Chelsea into the second leg with one foot into the quarter-final. His last ever goal for the club, and what a goal it was, winning Chelsea’s 2020/21 season goal.

I remember that goal as if it was yesterday—a difficult skill to conquer under immense pressure. The finish was absolutely stunning. Tuchel’s clean sheet record was still intact, and the centre-back trio of Antonio Rudiger, Andreas Christensen, and Cesar Azpilicueta managed to keep Atletico’s formidable attack out.

I may not be a tactical genius, but having seen Diogo Dalot placed on the lineup as a right-back, I instantly believed Ralf Rangnick was ready to take a page out of Tuchel’s book. A 3-5-2 match-up might have been nice for a defensively troubled Man United side. Also, when Atleti faced Chelsea, the match tactics contributed massively to their downfall.

However, the idea of Marcus Rashford playing wing-back may not have pleased United fans across the country.

Chelsea’s three at the back formation didn’t just work out to maintain defensive dominance over Atletico Madrid. It also helped in the fluidity of the attack. Giroud partnered with Timo Werner, and Mason Mount were fluid in chance creation and could link up successfully behind their defence, especially with the help of wing-back Marcos Alonso.

With 11 shots and five on target, a player like Cristiano Ronaldo leading the front line would have seen the first leg wrapped up with more than one goal.

Angel Correa and Joao Felix gave United’s backline a turbulent performance. Harry Maguire struggled to keep up with the tricky Portuguese international who scored the first goal with a flying header. It’s pretty comical, seeing as the pair struggled to get any shots on target in their first leg against Chelsea. Even the great Luis Suarez was unable to give Edouard Mendy any trouble.

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The likelihood of the Red Devils going three at the back for their second leg is slim. It worked for Tuchel, so it should work for the man he learned from in Rangnick. I think it will solve the defensive mishaps they’ve been experiencing for several months. Who knows, maybe Ronaldo would be able to deliver the spectacular next time, just like Giroud did.

Age is nothing but a number for the greatest of all time, right?

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