Judgement day is here, Real Madrid are the opponents and Manchester City await. Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea are 90 minutes away from a third ever Champions League final for the club. A far cry from the three trophy lifts that their opposition had in a row within the last decade.
The time is now for Chelsea to stand up and be counted, for this youthful squad to battle their way past experience European campaigners in Toni Kroos, Dani Carvajal, Casemiro, Karim Benzema, Luka Modric and Sergio Ramos.
With the tie finely poised at 1-1, Christian Pulisic’s crucial away goal giving Chelsea a *slight* advantage, there is much to play for at Stamford Bridge with it all to lose.
Chelsea Vs Real Madrid: Form guide
Last five results: W-D-W-D-W
The Blues enter this game off the back of a comfortable but unspectacular 2-0 victory over London rivals Fulham. Although this result alone won’t be scaring Real Madrid too much, the Blues record of conceding just three goals in their last seven games with a total of 17 clean sheets in 23 under Tuchel sums up the task for Zinedine Zidane’s Galacticos.
Chelsea have found the secret to becoming a tough nut to crack, along with posing threating pace in attack. A mixture that has seen them climb up to fourth in the Premier League, dominating the defensive stats in the process.
In the Premier League alone Chelsea have shown that their ‘new manager bounce’ was more than just that. The Londoners are a serious threat to major teams and can use experience to their advantage. This may be a youthful Chelsea team, with some key first team members under 24; Reece James (21), Mason Mount (22), Kai Havertz (21), Ben Chilwell (24), but they have a good blend of age and achievement in their side including the captain. Cesar Azpilicueta, a two time Premier League and Europa League winner, featuring alongside last season’s beaten Champions League captain Thiago Silva have formed an almost impenetrable partnership alongside the seasoned Antonio Rudiger who is a player for big games himself.
Chelsea are here to prove that their form is more than a purple patch, it’s a sign for the future. They have found a way to win. Holding teams firm and at arms-length before pouncing and striking their prey.
Last five results: D-W-D-D-W
As for Real Madrid, it is hard to discount their own experience. Their manager and most of the playing squad have won this competition, top end international players with master’s degrees in football heritage float around their camp. They have also picked up form since criticism regarding form in the early stages of this competition.
Zidane’s rejuvenated Real Madrid haven’t lost since Saturday, January 30th. In that period they have strolled largely under the La Liga radar into second place, with just four losses in the league all season which is less than Barcelona in second. They have also only tasted an away defeat once in the league.
This leaves Los Blancos on a thirteen-game unbeaten run in the league. They also have seen a slight resurgence of ex-Chelsea forward Eden Hazard. The Belgian, who is widely regarded as one of Chelsea’s greatest players, played 70 minutes in the Real Madrid victory over Osasuna at the weekend, prepping himself for visiting the stadium often dubbed ‘the garden of Eden’.
Team news and predicted line-ups
With no new fresh injury concerns and the opportunity to rest players against Fulham, Tuchel has the opportunity to field a full-strength side and prepare for Saturday’s crunch fixture with possible Champions League finalist opponents and Premier League champions elect, Manchester City.
Havertz’s brace against the Cottager’s has given Tuchel a selection headache to some extent though. The German is almost certainly Chelsea’s best and most reliable finisher, he also possesses the movement to drag defenders out of position. However, he lacks the threat of lightening pace that his countryman Werner has.
Although Werner scored against West Ham and grabbed an assist at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, his hit-and-miss goalscoring has meant he hasn’t becoming the goalscoring threat that Chelsea had hoped.
He caused Real Madrid countless problems when running in behind the defence in the first leg, it is likely that Tuchel will be hoping for a similar pattern of play here.
Predicted Chelsea XI: (3-4-3) Mendy, Azpilicueta, Christensen, Thiago Silva, Rudiger, Chilwell, Jorginho, Kante, Mount, Pulisic, Werner
As for Real Madrid, their team is less easy to predict. With an injury keeping out French centre back Raphael Varane and the changing fortunes of their fullbacks, the shape and personnel in defence is unpredictable.
Club captain Ramos is expected to be back, a huge boost in the heart of an uncertain defence. The experience that Ramos brings to Real Madrid shouldn’t be overstated. The 35-year old doesn’t have the same pace he used to, but just like Thiago Silva he reads the game and is often ahead of play in his head.
Elsewhere, there could be a return to the starting XI for Ferland Mendy as Real Madrid are expected to revert back to the more tried and tested 4-3-3 formation, whilst right-back Dani Carvajal is injured for the remainder of the season so Fede Valverde, Nacho Fernandez or Alvaro Odriozolo could start.
Hazard could feature from the start but the likelihood is that the Belgian will make a cameo from the bench if needed, whilst another ex-Chelsea player in Thibaut Courtois will be back Stamford Bridge for the first time since he left SW6 in a puff of angry smoke.
Predicted Real Madrid XI: (4-3-3) Courtois, Valverde, Ramos, Militao, Mendy, Kroos, Casemiro, Modric, Vinicius, Benzema, Asensio
Stadium: Stamford Bridge
Kick off: 8pm BST
Where can I watch: BT Sport
Referee: Daniele Orsato
Written and edited Tom Coley (@tomcoley49)
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