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    Chelsea stands in way of Atletico's first Champions League final

    Apr 30, 2014
    Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, on loan from Chelsea, takes part in a training session at Chelsea's Stamford Bridge stadium. AP

    LONDON — It's not only illness that has exhausted Jose Mourinho. Defending the virtues of employing defensive tactics once again is wearing out the Chelsea manager.

    However much Liverpool and Atletico Madrid were frustrated by Mourinho's well-disciplined methods to stifle them in the last week, they kept Chelsea on track for trophies in the Champions League and English Premier League.

    "You can play perfect football, have lots of one-touch stuff, and you lose," Chelsea winger Andre Schuerrle said. "But that's not what you want; you want to win. There's no point in playing well and losing."

    Chelsea will reach the final, the first under Mourinho, if the team can build on a hard-fought scoreless draw with Atletico Madrid on Wednesday. Real Madrid already is there after a 5-0 aggregate victory over defending champion Bayern Munich.

    Spanish leader Atletico could be even more desperate. It has never won the Champions League, and made its only final appearance 40 years ago.

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    Here are five things to know about the match at Stamford Bridge:

    STINGY DEFENSES: The second leg might not be the most entertaining for neutral observers, unless they want to catch Mourinho's touchline flamboyance and flashpoints. Atletico has conceded just five goals in 11 Champions League games this season to remain the only unbeaten side and, like Chelsea, has the stingiest defense domestically. Atletico striker Diego Costa is hoping the Stamford Bridge game is more open than the first leg. "They will have to come out a little bit more," he predicted.

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    EUROPEAN PEDIGREE: While Chelsea, the 2012 Champions League winner and 2013 Europa Cup champion, is making its seventh semifinal appearance in the last decade, Atletico is in the last four in the European Cup for the first time in 40 years. Atletico did win the Europa League in 2012 before relinquishing the trophy to Chelsea last May. By also breaking up the Barcelona-Real Madrid dominance in Spain this season, Atletico has shown itself not to be burdened by past shortcomings.

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    Unlike Chelsea, which is second in the Premier League, Atletico leads the way in Spain after winning nine consecutive matches to close in on the trophy for the first time since 1996.

    "It's clear our team is prepared for the biggest contests and is very confident," captain Gabi Fernandez said. "This team's conviction is so resolute, it's something you rarely see. We're players that haven't won much. We're all pretty much rookies when it comes to winning trophies. The hunger is what characterizes us."

    SEARCH FOR GOALS: How Mourinho could do with Diego Costa in the blue of Chelsea rather than the red and white of Atletico on Wednesday. The striker has 35 goals this season, and Mourinho has hardly concealed his frustration with the attacking players he inherited on returning last year to Chelsea after six years. Demba Ba might not be a favorite of Mourinho, with the Senegal forward not making the starting lineup in Madrid last Tuesday. But he has scored on his last two Premier League starts, including Sunday's 2-0 win at leader Liverpool. Ba netted Chelsea's last Champions League goal, in the second leg of the quarterfinal against Paris Saint-Germain.

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    CECH RECOVERY: Chelsea left Madrid without conceding a goal despite Petr Cech dislocating his right shoulder early in the game. Even at 41, Mark Schwarzer has proved to be a capable understudy, keeping a clean sheet at Anfield. But Cech surprisingly made an appearance on Tuesday in training and told the media he was fit to face Atletico.

    YELLOW PERIL: Chelsea midfielders Frank Lampard and John Obi Mikel, and Atletico's Gabi are suspended and won't play on Wednesday. Chelsea defender David Luiz is one booking away from missing out on a potential trip to the final in Lisbon next month. Atletico defenders Emiliano Insua and Juanfran, and midfielder Koke are similarly at risk of being suspended for the final.

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    Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, on loan from Chelsea, takes part in a training session at Chelsea's Stamford Bridge stadium. AP
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