Tuesday and Wednesday night football are back as we move into the quarterfinals of European’s biggest competition with Chelsea taking on Real Madrid in what would be a repeat of the 2020-21 Champions League semi-finals.
Chelsea breezed past French champions Lille 4-1 in the round of 16 while Real Madrid made a historic comeback against Paris St. Germain, overcoming a two-goal deficit to win the tie 3-2 with talisman Karim Benzema scoring all three goals in the space of 17 minutes.
WHEN & WHERE?
When: Wednesday, April 6
Where: Stamford Stadium.
Time: 20:00 BST.
Referee: Clément Turpin.
Assistant Referees: Nicolas Danos, Cyril Gringore
Fourth official: François Letexier.
VAR: Jérôme Brisard.
Assistant VAR: Delajod Willy.
Chelsea have an almost fully healthy squad except for Ben Chilwell who continues to recover from the ACL injury he suffered last November against Juventus in the Champions League & Callum Hudson-Odoi is now dealing with a back problem as well as a sore Achilles.
Christian Pulisic did not take part in the last Premier League game against Brentford but the USA international might replace Timo Werner on the left while Reece James should start against the 13-time European Cup winners. Mateo Kovacic or Jorginho will definitely replace Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who will miss the second leg if he is booked here.
As for Los Blancos, former Chelsea star Eden Hazard will be forced to miss out on a reunion after undergoing a fibular plate operation while Luka Jokic will not be a part of this tie due to an ankle problem.
Dani Carvajal should return to the starting XI in place of Lucas Vazquez at right-back as Eder Militao walks thin line over missing out on the home leg if he is booked tonight.
The defending European and world champions were stunned in their backyard as fellow Londoners Brentford thrashed them 4-1 second-half brace from Vitaly Janelt and goals from Christian Eriksen and Yoane Wissa completed the turnaround for The Bees after they went one down from an Antonio Rudiger screamer. Despite the defeat, the Blues still are five points clear of both the North London clubs after Arsenal lost 3-0 to Patrick Viera’s Crystal Palace.
Their opponents Real Madrid on the other hand, beat Celta Vigo 2-1 in La Liga to remain twelve points clear of arch enemies FC Barcelona. Karim Benzema continues his fantastic goal-scoring spree, scoring both goals and now he has contributed to 44 goals & assists in both UEFA Champions League and domestic league.
The Blues are still one of the best defensive teams despite Saturday’s shock result. Reece James’ comeback will help The Blues massively offensively and defensively. Despite scoring 58 goals in the league, the West London side haven’t looked easy on the eye. A lot of times Blues rely on individual moments of brilliance after running out of ways to put the ball in the back of the net. For instance, it took a really good ball from Jorginho and an ice-cold finish from Kai Havertz to seal all three points against Newcastle while it took the 89th minute against Crystal Palace to break the deadlock by Hakim Ziyech in a match where Romelu Lukaku just took eight touches. It is more than likely that Real Madrid will try to play a very defensive brand of football on Wednesday as they did in the game against PSG. Real Madrid’s overreliance on Benzema and Vinicus Jr. will be tested against a well-organized Thomas Tuchel side.
The French World Cup-winning midfielder was the player of the match on both occasions these two teams clashed with each other. He did not contribute to the goal charts directly but clearly, N’Golo was the driving force behind Chelsea’s dominance against the Madridista outfit in the semifinal of last year’s Champions League. An aged and tired Real Madrid midfield could not cope with Chelsea’s young and dynamic midfield. Despite not being to play every minute of Chelsea’s league campaign, Kante still ranks in the 99th percentile for all players across Europe for dribbles completed, 93rd for progressive passes in the final third while still making 4 defensive actions per match. He will again need to step up if the Blues were to make the 4th UEFA Champions League final.
We are running out of adjectives to describe how good Benzema has been during this season. It is due to Benzema and Vinicius Jr. goal-scoring prowess that Real Madrid looks favorites to win a record 35th La Liga title. The now third all-time highest goal scorer for Real Madrid will need to bring out his ‘A’ game if he were to breach this backline and Edouard Mendy.
Chelsea: Mendy; Azpilicueta, Silva, Rudiger; James, Jorginho, Kovacic, Alonso; Ziyech, Havertz, Pulisic.
Real Madrid: Courtois; Carvajal, Militao, Alaba, Mendy; Kroos, Casemiro, Modric; Asensio, Benzema, Vinicius Junior.
Chelsea 1-0 Real Madrid