Gary Cahill believes Chelsea can prove they are Champions League contenders with a strong performance at Atletico Madrid.

Cahill says the Blues face one of their toughest fixtures of the season at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium tonight.

Atletico, who are second in La Liga, were beaten finalists in 2014 and 2016, also reaching the last four last term.

Cahill was in the Chelsea side that lost to Atletico in the Uefa Super Cup Final in 2012 and the Champions League semi-final two years later.

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And the centre-half told Standard Sport: “This is going to be one of our hardest games in the Champions League. It doesn’t get much tougher, so if we can get a result there it will say a lot.

“This is a proper tie. We are not just coming up against technicians and people who are really good on the ball, but they are real men, physical. 

“They have the attributes you are looking for in a team. They tick most of the boxes.

“We know a lot about Atletico. We have seen them in European competitions in recent years. They have done very, very well and there is a reason for that.

“It’s going to be a real challenge but we got a draw over there in the first leg of the semi-final in 2014, which we thought had set us up great for the second leg, only to lose. It is important we come back with something.”

Chelsea’s task may have been made even harder, given this is the first European match at their new ground.

Diego Simeone’s side have moved from the Vicente Calderon to a 68,000 capacity arena and have already won their first two La Liga matches there.

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Cahill added: “The game is at a new stadium and I expect the atmosphere to be amazing. It will be a huge game, so I am looking forward to it. These are the big games you want to play in.”

But Chelsea’s captain says the club’s fine start to the campaign – they have won all three of their away Premier League games and are third in the table – has given them a lot of self-belief.

“The momentum of the team is good,” he said. “Just look at our performance in the League Cup against Nottingham Forest (5-1) last week and then at Stoke (4-0). 

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“We won our first Champions League game, too. We were disappointed to draw against Arsenal in the League earlier this month, but crucially we are not losing games. We will be going to Atletico with a lot of good results and in good form.”

Cahill’s team-mate, Cesar Azpilicueta, thinks Chelsea are facing one of Champions League favourites, even though Atletico have not been able to improve their squad for more than a year. Fifa banned them from making signings for the past two transfer windows after the club breached rules regarding the acquisition of minors.

Azpilicueta said: “I consider them [Atletico] contenders to win it. They’ve got to finals in recent years. They’re a team that fights to the end, they’ve been together for a long time under the manager and they’d signed players before [the transfer ban]. They know the way they play really well and are progressing.

“This is a good test of our level. It’s difficult to see us as favourites at the moment. I expect to see a brave Chelsea. We know we are facing a highly-experienced team. 

“But, having been away from Europe for a season, we want to get this right. We’ll need a perfect match to get the three points.”