Chelsea's win at Atletico is a sign of the Premier League's revival in Europe
MADRID -- Some results mean more than others and have a greater impact, but one statistic underlines the magnitude of Chelsea's 2-1 Champions League victory on Wednesday at Atletico Madrid.
Atletico have faced English clubs in Europe on countless occasions over the years, starting with a European Cup Winners' Cup clash against Leicester City in 1961. Until Michy Batshuayi struck with a 94th-minute winner for the Premier League champions in the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium, they had never lost to a visitor from England on home turf.
Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester United and Liverpool have all previously tried and failed to win at Atletico, as have Leicester, Derby County, Aston Villa and Bolton Wanderers. But on their very first European night at their new stadium, Atletico surrendered their proud record against English opponents and, more importantly, could have no complaints about doing so.
In a week that has seen the Premier League giants cruise to impressive Champions League victories -- only Liverpool failed to win on matchday two -- Chelsea's win in Spain is by far the most significant.
Tottenham's 3-0 win against Apoel was impressive, as was Man United's 4-1 victory against CSKA Moscow in Russia, but neither Apoel nor CSKA are in Atletico's class. City eventually dispatched Shakhtar Donetsk, an often underestimated Champions League outfit, at the Etihad on Tuesday, while there were also big wins on matchday one against the likes of Feyenoord, Basel, Qarabag and Borussia Dortmund.
But in recent seasons, only Barcelona and Real Madrid have surpassed Atletico when it comes to consistency in the Champions League. Diego Simeone's team are a high-achieving outfit, denied two European Cups only by arguably one of the best Real teams in recent memory.
They have been a formidable unit, overcoming the likes of Barca, Bayern Munich and Chelsea in the knockout stages to reach those finals, but Chelsea dominated them on Wednesday and beat them at their own game.
Do this week's results signify a reawakening of the sleeping Premier League giants in Europe, or is it too early to make the judgement?
Apart from Tottenham's Wembley win against Dortmund, who have their own impressive European track record in recent years, the English wins on matchday one and two have been a surprise only in terms of the winning margins.
But Chelsea travelled to Madrid with Antonio Conte insisting that they were underdogs against Atletico and Cesar Azpilicueta talking of the need to play a "perfect" game to beat them. Chelsea did that, with Eden Hazard outstanding and the in-form Alvaro Morata once again scoring a crucial goal.
"To play in this way, with this spirit, with this personality, is not simple," Conte said after the game. "You know very well when you go 1-0 down against Atletico Madrid, it's very difficult to come back.
"But despite this, in the second half, we continued to play very well, with great concentration and great personality. We scored twice, and we deserved to win."
Hazard, who produced his best Champions League performance for Chelsea, echoed Conte by paying tribute to Atletico's strengths and track record.
"We are very happy," Hazard said. "It was a tough game against one of the biggest teams in Europe.
"We did well, we scored two goals and should have scored more, so we deserved to win the game. But we play for Chelsea, one of the biggest clubs in the world, so we just want to win every game."
It is now 10 years since the Premier League's dominance of the Champions League reached its peak with Chelsea facing United in the final in Moscow in 2007-08. Since then, Barca and Real have helped place La Liga at the top of the pile, but with all the money in the Premier League, and the calibre of coaches such as Conte, Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola in charge of the biggest clubs, the gap is closing.
Real and Barca remain the favourites to win the Champions League again this season, but this victory is a marker being laid down. City defeated Barcelona at the Etihad last season and won a group-stage match at Bayern when fates were already determined, but this win is the biggest by an English club in the Champions League in some time.
There is still some way to go before the Premier League can scale the summit again, and next month's clash between Real and Spurs at the Bernabeu might offer a truer gauge of the current gap between the best and the rest. But the Premier League is beginning to land blows again in the Champions League, and Chelsea's win over Atletico is a clear signal of that.
Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_