Chelsea faces Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League quarter-final first leg at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday. The Blues have faced Los Blancos five times in the past and have never lost (with three wins and two draws). The teams faced each other in last year’s semi-final where Chelsea won 3-1 on aggregate. This clash will see Carlo Ancelotti face his former club if the coach recovers from COVID-19 in time to be at the match.
Chelsea were beaten 4-1 over the weekend at home by Brentford in a shock defeat. It was their first defeat in 15 matches and just the team’s fifth defeat in 50 matches this season. The Blues reached this stage having beaten Lille 2-0 at home and 2-1 away in the round of 16.
Since losing the Carabao Cup final on penalties to Liverpool (technically a 0-0 draw, not a defeat), Chelsea won six in a row in all competitions with three clean sheets. At home in the Champions League, it’s just one defeat in nine at Stamford Bridge with six wins in a row.
Chelsea Team News
The Blues have just two injuries to contend with in Callum Hudson-Odoi and long-term victim Ben Chilwell. Reece James is back from a hamstring problem and is likely to start at right-wingback. Thomas Tuchel has a straight choice between Andreas Christensen and Cesar Azpilicueta on the right of the back four.
Mateo Kovacic or Jorginho will partner N’Golo Kante in midfield. Christian Pulisic is expected to be preferred to Hakim Ziyech and Romelu Lukaku in the front three.
This first leg is a match that Chelsea will target to win, ideally by two goals. With the crowd expected to be louder than in recent weeks and a tight pitch, the Blues will attack and press Real Madrid.
After leaking four over the weekend, it could be a more circumspect start to be solid and regain some defensive confidence. A draw would be seen as a very poor result without the benefit of away goals in the second leg.
Real Madrid Form
After having a disappointing dip around early February, Madrid looks in relatively good form. That streak two months back saw just one win in five and a 1-0 away loss to PSG when Real Madrid parked the bus and drew real criticism for their defensive approach.
Since then, Los Blancos have won six of their next seven matches including a 3-1 home victory against PSG to reach this stage after a sublime Karim Benzema hattrick. A 3-0 win at Mallorca followed with the French striker netting twice. Without Benzema due to injury, Real were then humiliated 4-0 at home by Barcelona. They bounced back to win 2-1 at Celta Vigo on Saturday thanks to two Benzema penalties.
Real Madrid Team News
Carlo Ancelotti has not travelled with his side due to COVID-19. It is still possible that he will travel on the day of the game if he has a negative test result. Eden Hazard, Luka Jovic, and Isco all miss this match due to injury.
Benzema is fit to start and so is Ferland Mendy, both massive boosts in problem positions. Madrid used a back three at Stamford Bridge last season and could be tempted to do the same here to match up. That would likely see Nacho come in as an additional central defender with Vinicius Jnr. partnering Benzema in a 3-5-2 shape.
Real Madrid Motivation
Madrid parked the bus in the away leg at PSG last time out. With no away goals, there aren’t a lot of benefits in attacking and opening up. However, fierce blowback in Madrid for those tactics has seen a more open setup in recent weeks and it is not likely to be as negative as in Paris.
Los Blancos would consider a draw to be a great result. If they go to a 3-5-2, then it is clear what the side is coming to London for – to avoid defeat and try to win the home leg next week.
Chelsea have never lost to Real Madrid (W3, D2)
Chelsea have won their last 6 CL matches at Stamford Bridge without conceding
Madrid have won 6 of their last 7 matches
Real Madrid have conceded in 4 of their last 5 matches (all comps)
Real Madrid have seen Both teams to score NO in their last 9 away CL matches (W5, L2, D2)
This should be a very interesting match tactically. Madrid would love a draw and Chelsea would take any victory. Both sides could be quite conservative after recent defensive issues and Madrid’s record of no games with both sides scoring in their last nine on the road could be repeated.
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