Chelsea will face off against Real Madrid in what will be a clash of the titans in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League quarter-final tie this week.
The UEFA Champions League quarter-final ties kick off this midweek. And one of the biggest matches of the round will see current holders Chelsea take on La Liga leaders Real Madrid, with the first leg set to be played at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night.
Chelsea, who won the Champions League under Thomas Tuchel last season, sailed through the group stage without any hiccups. However, they did lose a game on their way to finishing second in Group H behind Juventus. The Blues eased past LOSC Lille in the Round of 16, beating them 4-1 on aggregate. However, Chelsea go into arguably the biggest game of their season so far on the back of a shock 4-1 defeat to Brentford in the Premier League.
Real Madrid finished at the top of Group D, cruising through with comfort barring the shock loss to Sheriff Tiraspol. Drawn against PSG in the Round of 16, Los Blancos lost the first leg, only to produce a stirring comeback in the second leg, led by Karim Benzema, to secure a 3-2 aggregate victory. Having suffered a heavy defeat to Barcelona in La Liga before the international break, Carlo Ancelotti’s side bounced back to beat Celta Vigo 2-1 in their latest game.
This tie is a replay of the semi-final of the last season when Chelsea ousted Real Madrid 3-1 on aggregate on their way to lifting the trophy. Ahead of this blockbuster encounter coming our way on Wednesday, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.
Team News & Tactics
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) April 5, 2022
Chelsea will be without long-term absentee Ben Chilwell while Callum Hudson-Odoi is also a doubt for the clash after missing Tuesday’s training session. Christian Pulisic, who was unavailable for the weekend clash against Brentford, was pictured back in training in a boost for the home team.
After setting his team up with a four-man backline over the weekend, Thomas Tuchel is expected to revert to his preferred 3-4-2-1 setup on Wednesday night in front of goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois. Andreas Christensen, who is set to join Real Madrid’s arch-rivals Barcelona in the summer, will form the three-man defence along with Thiago Silva and Antonio Rudiger.
Reece James, who featured for a little over 30 minutes over the weekend, should start here, slotting in at right wing-back while Marcos Alonso gets the nod on the left. The battle between James and Vinicius Junior could be an exciting one to watch and could have a major say on the outcome of the game.
N’Golo Kante and Jorginho should line up in the centre of the park, with ex-Real Madrid ace Mateo Kovacic being an option from the bench. Hakim Ziyech and Mason Mount will share the creative burden for Chelsea, slotting in as the two attacking midfielders who will be tasked with supporting Kai Havertz in the final third of the pitch.
Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Mendy; Christensen, Silva, Rudiger; James, Kante, Jorginho, Alonso; Ziyech, Mount; Havertz
Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti has not travelled to London with the rest of the squad as he has not delivered a negative Covid-19 test. However, the Italian could fly to England on Wednesday in time for kickoff. As for injuries, Real Madrid will be without former Chelsea hero Eden Hazard, along with Luka Jovic and Isco.
— Real Madrid C.F. (@realmadrid) April 4, 2022
Real Madrid will set up in their usual 4-3-3 formation for this big game. Former Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois will return to Stamford Bridge with the hope of securing a clean sheet. Eder Militao and David Alaba are certain starters at the heart of the defence for the Merengues, while Dani Carvajal and Ferland Mendy occupy the flanks.
Casemiro will be tasked with keeping a lid on the creative output of Hakim Ziyech. The Brazilian will have support from his usual partners-in-crime in the middle of the park in Luka Modric and Toni Kroos. The veteran duo will not only lend defensive support but also look to provide the forward thrust and creativity for Real Madrid.
The attacking line picks itself for Real Madrid as Karim Benzema, Vinicius Junior, and Marco Asensio are likely to feature in the final third. Rodrygo Goes and Gareth Bale will be options from the bench.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Courtois; Carvajal, Militao, Alaba, Mendy; Modric, Casemiro, Kroos; Asensio, Benzema, Vinicius
- This is the second consecutive season in which Chelsea and Real Madrid have met in the UEFA Champions League knockout stages. The Blues could become the first English team to eliminate Los Blancos from the knockout stages of the competition more than once.
- Real Madrid have faced Chelsea more times without ever winning than they have against any other side in European competitions (P5 D2 L3).
- Chelsea are unbeaten in their last eight games against Spanish teams in European competitions (W4 D4).
- Real Madrid’s last away win against an English side in the UEFA Champions League came in 2014/15 when they won 3-0 against Liverpool at Anfield. Since then, they are without a win in their last five such matches (D3 L3).
- Since Thomas Tuchel’s first Champions League game in charge of Chelsea in February previous year, the Blues have kept ten clean sheets in 15 matches – the most by any team.
Player to Watch
— 433 (@433) April 2, 2022
The veteran striker has been the go-to man for Real Madrid when things are not going their way. And it was his inspirational display against Paris Saint-Germain that helped the Spanish giants pull off a comeback in the last round and set up a date with Chelsea.
Following his hat-trick against PSG, Benzema has scored eight goals for Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League this season. It is his most in a single campaign in the competition. If he finds the back of the net once more, the 34-year-old will be setting a new season-best record for goals by a Frenchman in the competition.
Doing so against Chelsea will not be easy, though, as he will be up against a formidable defensive line comprising Thiago Silva and Antonio Rudiger. How Benzema fares against the Blues’ defensive duo could have a major effect on the outcome of the game.
Chelsea 1-1 Real Madrid
Chelsea will be licking their wounds from the hammering they received at the hands of Brentford over the weekend and will be gunning to bounce back to winning ways. However, the Blues will be coming up against a Real Madrid side motivated to exact revenge for last season’s events at Stamford Bridge.
So, it promises to be a closely fought encounter between two top teams with extraordinary players on either side and could come down to a moment of individual brilliance from someone like Karim Benzema or Mason Mount. The Hard Tackle predicts this one to end all square.