Match Preview: Real Madrid vs Chelsea
The title race seems to be slipping away from Real Madrid’s hands and the Champions League is without a shadow of a doubt the competition which gives them hope of finishing the season on a high note. They were held at home by a gritty Real Betis side at the weekend and are set to welcome Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea next.
Just when the Merengues were starting to string together a bunch of results, two untimely goalless draws in successive weeks have halted their progress. On the biggest of occasions, in the most demanding of fixtures though, they haven’t disappointed this season.
What to Expect
Madrid tend to switch gears in these big games. Almost like a shift in momentum. Expect the hosts to feel comfortable against a team that plays as aggressively if not more than Madrid themselves. Similarly to how Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool came to the Di Stéfano, Chelsea will come as underdogs. And Madrid will aim to be the side that entertains.
Chelsea under Thomas Tuchel are an interesting proposition. They are unafraid of pressure, instead they, like Betis, will come as the away team and look to boss things. One can’t really expect certain things from any of Tuchel’s sides. They’ve grown stronger defensively in the past month and a half, and the manager has made tiny but effective changes to his attacking combinations, boasting immeasurable talent.
The Londoners are very flexible, very adaptable. They take things on a situational basis and will expect themselves to be ready for almost everything Los Blancos put on the table. Zidane has a good portion of his first choice players back and available. Expectedly, though, he will also have to make adjustments tonight.
Toni Kroos is the only name returning to the squad list. Fede Valverde and Ferland Mendy couldn’t make it in time for the clash. It’s hard to imagine what Real Madrid’s shape will look like, with Eden Hazard also returning a couple days back. Three Castilla youngsters (Sergio Arribas, Antonio Blanco and Miguel Gutiérrez) keep their place in the squad.
Mateo Kovačić remains absent with a hamstring injury for Tuchel’s side. Aside from the ex Real Madrid linchpin, The Blues have no further absences.
Carvajal — Varane — Militão — Nacho
Modrić — Casemiro — Kroos
Asensio — Benzema — Vinicius
Azpilicueta — Silva — Rüdiger
James — Jorginho — Kanté — Chilwell
Mount — Pulisic
Players to Watch
Real Madrid: Karim Benzema: Insane consistency, especially as of late. The Whites suffer when Benzema doesn’t see much of the ball, and thrive when the Frenchman gets involved. There’s so much to his game than just goals.
Chelsea: Mason Mount: Unlike Liverpool, Chelsea don’t play very aggressively in midfield. But they’ve got all sorts of players in there. The former Derby County man was one of the beneficiaries of Frank Lampard’s time at the club. Immensely technical, understands space very well and finds gaps rather comfortably in midfield. Tuchel can rely on him to wriggle out chances for his front men.
Real Madrid 1-1 Chelsea
This isn’t a final, but it’s probably going to be played out in a very similar manner. Expect it to be cagey, and a narrow win for whichever team edges it. Truth being said, such games are usually decided on micro platforms, in the tiniest of details. But with these two teams playing the way they are, it’s unpredictable across two legs and in tonight’s game.