Real Madrid will get the opportunity to avenge their last season’s semifinal elimination when they face Chelsea again in a Champions League knockout stage tie. This time, a semifinal spot is up for grabs, and the first meeting will take place on Wednesday night at Stamford Bridge.
In their last home match, Chelsea had a terrifying experience as a visiting Brentford side condemned them to a humiliating 4-1 defeat. Antonio Rudiger had put the home side ahead with a 40-yard screamer, but the defensive horror-show that ensued saw Chelsea shipping two shy of half a dozen goals over 37 minutes.
Up until now, Chelsea showed no signs of being affected by the ambiguities resulting from the sanction of their owner Roman Abramovich. The UK government has imposed severe financial restrictions on Chelsea, which has temporarily cancelled their ability to sign new players, offer new contracts, and sign sponsorship deals. Their operational budget has also been trimmed significantly.
Chelsea were on a six-match winning run across all competitions before the capitulation against Brentford. Thomas Tuchel would want his team to shrug off the disappointment and produce a comeback against Los Blancos. The Blues had beaten Rennes in the Champions League last season following a crushing 5-2 defeat against West Brom. The German tactician would hope for a similar response from his team when they take on the La Liga giants.
A return for Ben Chilwell is still not on the horizon. Youngster Callum Hudson-Odoi is likely to miss out with back and Achilles issues. Christian Pulisic sat out the Brentford match as he returned late from international duty, but he will expect to replace Timo Werner, who had a subpar outing against Brentford, in the starting XI.
Carlo Ancelotti will not be returning to his old stomping ground as he is in quarantine after contracting covid. But, the veteran manager must have taken notes from Chelsea’s defeat to Brentford and will be hoping to utilize his findings to steer Real Madrid to a crucial first-leg victory.
Real Madrid have plenty of reasons to feel confident going into this tie. They are 12 points clear at the top of La Liga table. The memories of overturning a 2-0 deficit against PSG to reach the Champions League quarterfinals is also fresh in their minds.
But Madrid will be wary that they were not in their best shape in their 2-1 away win at Celta Vigo. The visitors were lucky to get three penalties, only two of which they managed to dispatch. Celta Vigo attackers also kept Madrid defenders on their toes till the last minute. However, they did enough to seal a hard-fought 2-1 victory and return to winning ways after a 4-0 El Clasico loss.
Eden Hazard is another former Chelsea employee who will not make the trip to West London. The Belgian has recently undergone surgery and will not be returning to first-team action anytime soon. Luka Jovic is struggling with an ankle problem and will face a late fitness test before boarding the plane.
Thomas Tuchel will surely revert to a three-man defence following their weekend catastrophe. Under Tuchel, Chelsea have been at their best defensively when they deployed three players in front of the keeper. So, Madrid will not have it easy. Chelsea did not lose any of their last five home games in the Champions League and did not allow the visiting side to score. We believe Chelsea will build on their strong European form and nick a close win against Madrid in the first leg.
Chelsea to win @ 2.05.