Match Preview: Chelsea vs Real Madrid – 2021/22

By: Mohammed Sahel

Gameday in London. The return of the Champions League brings Real Madrid to London. Chelsea and Los Blancos have bad blood between them, the games of the past haven’t always been so kind to the Spanish giants but they’ll be looking to change that stat and get their first ever win over the defending champions of Europe.

A number of things come into play when looking at this tie from different angles. Thomas Tuchel knows Real Madrid well, having coached against the Whites 6 times in the past — winning twice and having drawn 4 times. The first leg on home soil for Chelsea also means very different tempers from last season’s tie. Regardless, a very exciting prospect for fans on both ends. And realistically, the hosts are a considerably weaker team when compared to last year.

What to Expect: 

Over the weekend, Chelsea lost to Brentford at the Bridge. It was a game that Tuchel’s men will do well to put behind them, consider it a thing of the past as such. They were disjointed, out of place and it made for a very casual attitude when looking at their overall performance. It once again goes to show how changing systems doesn’t suit the Blues, much like Real Madrid.

With a back four in place going away from their usual back 3 or 5, their usual command over the game vanished and Brentford punished them for that. Prior to that, Tuchel had overseen a six game winning streak. Essentially, they still are rampant, very compact in possession, and have what it takes to beat Real. Yet they aren’t the team that ran past Zidane’s Real Madrid last year.

To expect Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid to play the way Zinédine Zidane’s team suffered last year would be very foolish indeed. What happened in the Clásico last month is a thing of the past. At Balaidos earlier this week, Celta fought very hard but couldn’t resist the wrath of the away team’s relentless counter-attacks. Despite being second-best for periods in the game, Ancelotti’s side were the more clinical team and held their composure on both ends of the pitch.

Tuchel has a few tough calls to make, like his midfield personnel, or whether or not to start with a natural striker (Pulisic and Mount seemed to cause problems last time). So does Carlo Ancelotti, who will be available on the sidelines after recovering from Covid. The right wing is a big question mark, and the fans constantly have doubts over the impact Toni Kroos and Luka Modrić may or may not have against a side of the athletic and physical ability of Chelsea. 

More or less, Chelsea will try to start on the front foot and play an aggressively. Given it’s their home game and conceding would put them at a major disadvantage. Real too, will be careful not to repeat their mistakes from the past — particularly how they over-committed in last year’s second leg and went all passive in the first leg against PSG this year. Striking the right balance is essential. 

Coming out of this game with a positive result would mean a foot and a half into the semi finals for whoever wins, but it’s unwise to declare any game dead in this competition and with these teams. We’ve come to learn that the hard way.

Team News: 

Real Madrid have a complete starting eleven at their disposal so there’s little to worry about when it comes to who plays and who doesn’t, except perhaps on the right flank. Eden Hazard underwent ankle surgery and will join the likes of Luka Jovic and Isco on the injury list. Not that anyone was anticipating either of them to play a significant role tonight anyway.

Ben Chilwell’s absence is a major loss for his team. His overlapping runs and crosses into the path of his strikers were crucial in the functioning of their attacking framework, and how their system had been set up. Marcos Alonso is solid but he isn’t the same. Central defender Andreas Christiensen is out too, so is Callum Hudson Odoi.

Expected Line-ups: 

Real Madrid:


Carvajal — Militão — Alaba — Mendy

Modrić — Casemiro — Kroos

Valverde — Benzema — Vinícius

Chelsea FC:


Azpilicueta — Silva — Rudiger 

James — Kanté — Kovačić — Alonso

Mount – Havertz — Pulisic

Player to Watch: 

Real Madrid: Thibaut Courtois. Karim Benzema has been in and out of the team, but continues to get on the scoresheet consistently. Vinícius Júnior is going through a rough patch but is always a threat. The Belgian keeper however, is someone who’s thoroughly earned his plaudits through unmatched consistency and commitment. A return to Stamford Bridge should bring the best out of him. Real Madrid need big Thibaut at his very best tonight, just the way he’s been sparing the team’s blushes week in week out this season.

Chelsea: Christian Pulisic. Captain America himself, an in-form American one should add. While Tuchel tends to stick with Werner and Lukaku for Premier League games, he unleashes the pacey wrath of Pulisic and Havertz in European games and it seems to be working so far. Pulisic scored a hattrick vs Panama last week to secure his country’s place at the world Cup.

Even for Chelsea, his performances vs Lille were exceptional. Last year too, Pulisic’s runs through on goal troubled Sergio Ramos and ultimately made the difference. Two of Chelsea’s goals came through those runs down the middle.


Chelsea 1-1 Real Madrid. 

You can never expect a dull game of football with these two involved. Coming away with a draw isn’t what Los Blancos will be looking for tonight, but it looks to be the most realistic outcome. Controlling the game in Chelsea’s half will be crucial for Ancelotti’s men. For Chelsea however, keeping their composure from the breakthroughs that come is vital. Hala Madrid!

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