Match Preview: Chelsea vs Real Madrid
The final stretch of the season hasn’t been kind to Real Madrid. Piling fixtures, a seemingly never ending casualty list and rivals starting to outperform them. Tonight Chelsea host the Merengues, knowing a nil—nil draw will take them through. Irregularities early in the season have always been a feature of Madrid’s seasons in recent years, but they really do come alive when it matters most.
The Spanish champions have no room for complacency. Manchester City booked their tickets to Istanbul last night and Zidane’s men can do so too, with a win at Stamford Bridge. Following the first leg, there were mixed reactions amongst the fanbase. Some said Real were lucky to have escaped with such a worn out squad while others believed that Chelsea’s away goal advantage will make the difference.
What to Expect
The job here is by no means to stage a comeback or to score tons of goals, not at all. Perhaps the nature of the game overcomplicates the way we perceive things. At the end of the day, Real Madrid need one goal without reply in order to go through. With returning names and a much needed win in LaLiga on Saturday, you wouldn’t put it past this Real Madrid side to break through Chelsea’s defences.
Chelsea know all about defending leads. They’ve done so successfully on 15 occasions during the Thomas Tuchel era, with 17 of the 23 games during that time ending in clean sheets. Just at the weekend, they put up a show versus Fulham. Almost as if the German manager was putting into place what he had prepared for the Champions League game.
Zinedine Zidane’s side will look to come in and be the aggressors, and dominate things right from the off. Chelsea, on the other hand, will aim to do more of what they did in Madrid, perhaps with higher efficiency. That being said, they do carry an advantage going into the game and the primary purpose will probably be to keep the Spanish champions at bay, albeit not defending passively altogether.
With Sergio Ramos’ return, expect a frantic build up. Eden Hazard’s inclusion should mean that we’re fluid in transition. If Fede Valverde can get involved in midfield, we will surely look to be more direct and the defensive burden on the shoulders of Kroos and Modric is likely to be eased. With all that’s happened this season, it’s fair to say that the manager trusts the players he’s got — regardless of which 11 names he’s got out there on the field.
Raphaël Varane is Zinedine Zidane’s only absentee and the squad he’s got finally looks as if it’s ready to compete for European glory. Dani Carvajal and Lucas Vázquez are already nursing their respective injuries and are out for the season. Ferland Mendy and Sergio Ramos are both fit and have trained throughout the course of the past week, expect the two to be returning to their spots in a familiar four man defence.
There was a general concern surrounding Federico Valverde and Marcelo but both were able to make it in time for our arrival at Cobham earlier yesterday. PS: Special mention for Cristina, the old lady who voluntarily replaced Marcelo at the polling booth so he could then depart early for England.
Thomas Tuchel confirmed Mateo Kovačić’s absence as the only missing name in his list of regulars.
Odriozola — Militão — Ramos — Mendy
Modrić — Casemiro — Kroos
Benzema — Vinícius
Christensen — Silva — Rudiger
Azpilicueta — Kanté — Jorginho — Chilwell Mount — Pulisic
Players to Watch
Chelsea: Mason Mount. No reason to alter this segment from last week. None whatsoever. The British midfielder was once again at his sparkling best against Fulham, as he continues ascent. The further he’s kept away from goal and from his teammates, the better. The more he gets involved in the action, the harder it’ll be for us to keep up with Chelsea’s moves.
Real Madrid: Karim Benzema. I really want to say Eden Hazard but the evidence to suggest that he’s going to be on top form tonight is admittedly minimal. More of a sentimental cause really, but with Benzema you’re 9 out of 10 times guaranteed a top performance. Not much to say really, if we manage to get him involved in and around the 18 yard box we’re doubly as likely to score.
Chelsea 0-2 Real Madrid
I’m optimistic about our defence, and about Zidane’s ability to bring out the most aggressive and lethal version of this team. We can’t afford to allow Chelsea a way back into the tie if we forge ahead, we’re operating on wafer thin margins here.