The reasoning was that their two-legged semi-final clash with the Blues sandwiched a Premier League title showdown with Liverpool; would Chelsea shuffle their pack for the Reds game now they are outsiders for the domestic title? Would fatigue and injury set in?
Aside from a decent result in the scrappy goalless draw at the Vicente Calderon, things went as badly as possible for Jose Mourinho, who lost both Petr Cech and John Terry to injury following innocuous collisions involving team-mate David Luiz.
Early in the match Cech suffered a dislocated shoulder after Luiz inadvertently shoved Raul Garcia into his goalkeeper; how Mourinho would have liked to bring Thibaut Courtois on in his place, although the Australian Mark Schwarzer did well in Madrid.
The second contact appeared to do for the Blues skipper, who bravely soldiered on but later came off.
Both were the result of accidental collisions; both will miss both the Liverpool match this weekend, and the second leg at home to Atletico next week.
Indeed, the experienced pair could end up sitting out the remainder of the season – Mourinho said afterwards that he expected Cech's campaign to be over, while Terry’s recovery is dependent on the extent of his ankle turn.
Chelsea, for all their riches, have a relatively shallow squad, particularly in Europe, where Mohamed Salah and Nemanja Matic are cup tied; additionally, the second leg will see Mourinho shorn of Frank Lampard and John Obi Mikel, both of whom will be suspended for the decider at Stamford Bridge.
At least that foursome should be available for the Liverpool game; Luiz will probably partner Gary Cahill – hugely impressive at the Calderon – while Branislav Ivanovic will return as right-back.
But with Liverpool’s front-line set to purr at Anfield on Sunday, my how they would like Cech and Terry holding the fort.
As it stands, the Reds must be considered favourites on the day and for the title, as Manchester City – who are better placed than Chelsea to catch Liverpool – are also sweating on Chelsea getting a result.
Incredible really - but it appears to vindicate Jose Mourinho's recent claims that Liverpool and Manchester City's absence from European competition could prove decisive.
Reda Maher - on Twitter @Reda_Eurosport
- Sports & Recreation
- Jose Mourinho
- Atletico Madrid
- Petr Cech
- John Terry
- Premier League
- David Luiz