A place in the finals of the 2020/21 UEFA Champions League will be on the line when Chelsea play hosts to Real Madrid at Stamford Bridge this midweek.
We are in the penultimate stages of the 2020/21 UEFA Champions League and the second leg of the second semi-final will be played out on Wednesday night at Stamford Bridge as Premier League bigwigs Chelsea take on La Liga champions Real Madrid in a blockbuster encounter.
The first leg, played last week at Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano, ended in a 1-1 draw, with Karim Benzema cancelling out Christian Pulisic’s early strike. The result gives Chelsea the edge due to the away goal rule heading into Wednesday’s fixture and a goalless draw will be enough for them to cruise through to the finals. So, the onus will be on Real Madrid to take the game to their hosts and come out on top if they are to stay alive in the competition.
As far as preparations for the heavyweight clash goes, Chelsea warmed up in fine fashion, securing a solid 2-0 win over local rivals Fulham in the Premier League this past weekend. Real Madrid, too, picked up a victory over CA Osasuna by the same scoreline as their midweek opponents while also managing to rest some of their key players ahead of the trip to west London.
The winner will set up a date against either Manchester City or Paris Saint-Germain in Istanbul later this month. And ahead of this monumental encounter coming our way from Stamford Bridge, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.
Team News & Tactics
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) May 4, 2021
Chelsea will once again be without the services of midfielder Mateo Kovacic, who will sit out against his former club due to a thigh injury. Antonio Rudiger, who missed the weekend win against Fulham, with a facial injury, is available for selection and should be able to play with mask on, Thomas Tuchel confirmed ahead of the game.
Tuchel is expected to make a few changes to the team that took the field against Fulham. No alteration is expected between the sticks though, with Edouard Mendy continuing in goal after a brilliant display at the weekend. Rudiger ought to return to the side, slotting in as the left-sided centre-back in place of Kurt Zouma. Andreas Christensen and Thiago Silva should hold on to their places.
Chelsea skipper Cesar Azpilicueta should also return to the side, slotting in at right wing-back at the expense of Reece James while Ben Chilwell continues on the opposite side. N’Golo Kante and Jorginho were both rested for the weekend clash and should walk back into the starting XI, starting in the middle of the park, from where they will look to cut out the influence of Luka Modric and Toni Kroos.
Mason Mount, who has been Chelsea’s in-form man, should hold on to his place as one of the two attacking midfielders while Christian Pulisic ought to return after not being involved in the league game. Timo Werner had a good outing against Fulham but Kai Havertz, who starred with a match-winning brace, ought to line up as the centre-forward for Chelsea against Real Madrid.
Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Mendy; Christensen, Silva, Rudiger; Azpilicueta, Kante, Jorginho, Chilwell; Mount, Pulisic; Havertz
Real Madrid have been handed a triple boost ahead of their trip to London as captain Sergio Ramos is fully fit and part of the travelling squad. In addition, Federico Valverde has recovered from coronavirus while Ferland Mendy is also back to fitness and has been included for the trip as well. However, Raphael Varane has been ruled out after picking up an injury at the weekend. He joins Lucas Vazquez and Dani Carvajal on the sidelines.
Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane set his team up in a three-man defensive formation for the first leg. However, he is expected to switch back to his tried and tested 4-3-3 setup on Wednesday night in front of former Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
— Real Madrid C.F. 🇬🇧🇺🇸 (@realmadriden) May 4, 2021
With Carvajal and Vazquez unavailable, and with Alvaro Odriozola not having played much this term, Nacho ought to get the nod at right-back where he will look to nullify the threat of Ben Chilwell while the returning Mendy should slot in at left-back from where he will have the onus of providing the attacking outlet. Eder Militao, who was the star of the show against Osasuna, ought to line up alongside Ramos at the heart of the Real Madrid defence.
Moving into the middle of the park, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos, both of whom were rested at the weekend, ought to return to lineup from where they will look to provide the creativity for the visiting side. Meanwhile, Casemiro will be the deepest of the three midfielders and will look to snuff out the threat posed by Mason Mount.
Up ahead in attack, Eden Hazard should be part of the starting XI on his grand return to Stamford Bridge. The Belgian looked in good nick against Osasuna and will be hoping to haunt his former employers on his return. Karim Benzema is a certain starter as the centre-forward while Rodrygo Goes could be in line for a start on the right-wing after an impressive cameo in the league game at the weekend.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Courtois; Nacho, Militao, Ramos, Mendy; Modric, Casemiro, Kroos; Rodrygo, Benzema, Hazard
- Chelsea will face Real Madrid for the fifth time in European competition. They are unbeaten against them in the previous four (W2 D2). This will be the first time across the five meetings that Chelsea have hosted the Spanish giants.
- Real Madrid are winless in their last four away games against English sides in the UEFA Champions League (D2 L2), scoring only two goals across the four games. Their last such victory was against Liverpool back in October 2014, winning 3-0 in the group stage.
- Chelsea have progressed from five of their last seven knockout ties in the UEFA Champions League when avoiding defeat away from home in the first leg. However, one of these two eliminations came in their last semi-final appearance in the competition, versus Atletico Madrid in 2013-14 (0-0 in first leg, 1-3 in second leg).
- Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane is looking to secure his fourth progression in four UEFA Champions League semi-final ties, which would equal the record for most semi-final tie progressions by a manager in competition history (4 – along with Sir Alex Ferguson, Carlo Ancelotti and Marcello Lippi).
- Chelsea’s Mason Mount (22y 115d) could become the second-youngest English player to score in a UEFA Champions League semi-final, after Wayne Rooney in 2007 (21y 182d v Milan). The last English player to score for Chelsea in a semi-final in this competition was Frank Lampard in 2008, netting versus Liverpool at Stamford Bridge.
Player to Watch
— Real Madrid C.F. 🇬🇧🇺🇸 (@realmadriden) May 4, 2021
Without a doubt, the whole world will be watching Eden Hazard as he returns to his old stomping ground for the first time in two years. However, it will be Karim Benzema that is likely to hold the key for Real Madrid if they are to stand a chance of going through to the showpiece event in Turkey later this month.
The Frenchman scored a stunning goal in the first leg to drag his team back into the contest after a slow start and has been the go-to man for Zinedine Zidane & co. when Real Madrid have had their backs against the wall over the past couple of years.
Benzema’s record in the UEFA Champions League speaks for itself. The 33-year-old, till date, has scored 71 goals in the competition and could become the outright fourth top scorer in the history if he scores in this game, overtaking Real Madrid legend Raul (71). A huge evening beckons the veteran centre-forward.
Chelsea 2-1 Real Madrid
It is not advisable to hedge your bet against Real Madrid in the Champions League, especially when the team is being commandeered by Zinedine Zidane. However, on Wednesday, they will be coming up against a Chelsea side that has hardly conceded goals at home under Thomas Tuchel. Indeed in 11 encounters at Stamford Bridge under the German, they have let in five goals, all of which came in a single game against West Bromwich Albion.
Given that the onus will be on Real Madrid to attack, the Blues can sit back and look to hit the La Liga champions on the counter, from where they can be destructive thanks to the raw pace of the likes of Christian Pulisic and Mason Mount while Kai Havertz will also be full of confidence after his recent display against Fulham.
Even though Eder Militao has been rock solid of late and Sergio Ramos will be back, Real Madrid could end up getting caught on the break in their pursuit of goals, which is why The Hard Tackle is predicting a win for Chelsea.