KEIR RADNEDGE in MONTE CARLO: Chelsea discovered in the Stade Louis II the flipside of the bleak downside which contrasts with their pride in the status of being European champions.
In the closing stages of their campaign last season they were rank oustiders, first against holders Barcelona in the semi-final and then against Bayern in the climactic showdown on enemy turf in Munich.
Now they are outsiders no longer. The element of underrated surprise has gone. Quite the reverse. Now all their opponent want to tilt at the crown, to puncture the balloon of perceived bravado.
Diego Simeone spelled it out as, in his characteristic all-black, Atletico de Madrid’s coach dissected the Europa League holders’ 4-1 dismissal of the very blue Blues in the European Supercup.
“We understood that we were playing against the European champions; we were facing a team who had eliminated Barcelona last season in the semi-finals then beaten a Bayern side who grow stronger and stronger with every passing year.
“So things didn’t turn out as maybe they appeared on paper. That is football for you.
“We prepared thoroughly. We knew how they could hurt us and how we could hurt them, particularly because they like to play a high line and we have a lot of pace to take advantage.
“We played the game we wanted and which we had prepared. It was a strategy which was followed to the letter by all my players – and that fills me with pride as a coach.”
Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo did not even try to argue with that. There were no ifs and buts.
“We had a very slow start, conceded two goals in 20 minutes and after that the game was very difficult,” he said in low-key understatement. “Atletico started very well and we conceded too much space to them and especially to a player like Falcao. You cannot give him space like that.
“We knew before the game that he is one of the top strikers in European football and again he showed it with the second goal, which was a very good strike. We were never really in the game.”
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