Chelsea and Real Madrid will lock horns at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League quarter-final tie.
Chelsea beat Real Madrid 3-1 on aggregate in last year’s Champions League semi-final on their way to European glory. The Blues weren’t the favorites heading into the encounter but they put on a convincing display over the two legs to dump Los Blancos out of the competition.
While Chelsea beat Lille 4-1 on aggregate in the Round of 16, Real Madrid produced a great comeback to get the better of Paris Saint-Germain. Real Madrid were trailing 2-0 with just half an hour remaining in the second leg against Mauricio Pochettino’s side.
That’s when their star striker Karim Benzema decided to take the game by the scruff of its neck. He scored a 17 minute hat-trick to knock the wind out of PSG’s sails and book a quarter-final berth for Real Madrid.
Even though the Chelsea squad is not as star-studded as PSG’s, they have plenty of quality to pose some real problems for Real Madrid in the last eight.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at five reasons why Chelsea will beat Real Madrid in the first leg on Wednesday.
#5 Carlo Ancelotti’s midfield plan has not been working
We are all well aware of just how good the midfield trio of Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and Casemiro can be. They’ve been pivotal to Real Madrid’s successes in the last decade. The fact of the matter is that they’ve not looked as out of place as they have of late in a very long time.
The Real Madrid midfield was outplayed in the 4-0 loss to Barcelona and even in the 2-1 win against Celta Vigo. For some reason, Ancelotti has undermined the old working formula and has decided to shift to a more defensive-minded approach in midfield.
Both Kroos and Modric have been used extensively this season. They are in their 30s and are simply not in a physical condition to pull off a high-press against teams with excellent technicians.
Ancelotti will also need to decide whether or not he starts Fede Valverde ahead of either Modric or Kroos. Valverde has shown that he is a big-game player and is an all-action midfielder who is more suited if Ancelotti is inclined towards containing Chelsea.
Otherwise, he’ll need to find a way for the team to play to Kroos and Modric’s strengths. As things stand, Real Madrid do look conflicted about what to do with their midfield and Chelsea will be more than happy to dominate the goings on in the center of the pitch.
#4 Real Madrid are likely to be without Carlo Ancelotti on the sidelines
Spanish radio station OndaCero via journalist Alberto Pereiro claims that Carlo Ancelotti has not traveled with the Real Madrid team to West London. He tested positive for Covid-19 last Wednesday and will take another PCR test ahead of matchday.
If he tests negative, Ancelotti will join up with the squad. Otherwise, Real Madrid won’t have their manager on the sidelines. This is particularly tricky for the Blancos since they’ve struggled to start games well of late.
Ancelotti’s early adjustments have helped Real Madrid grow into games and without his advice, they could be a little lost against a team as disciplined as Chelsea.
#3 Thomas Tuchel has a good record against Real Madrid
Thomas Tuchel has never lost against Real Madrid in his managerial career. In six games against the La Liga giants, Tuchel has won two and drawn four. His teams have recorded a combined scoreline of 12-7 against Real Madrid across those six games.
Last season’s Champions League semi-final tie between the two sides is a great example of just how good Tuchel is at executing specific plans against top opposition. He is one of the best managers in the world and his Chelsea side will be extremely difficult to break down.
#2 Chelsea’s home advantage
Having lost 4-1 to Brentford at Stamford Bridge over the weekend, this is perhaps not the best time to bring up the point of Chelsea’s home advantage. But it’s pertinent to the grand scheme of things because Real Madrid have a tendency to play within themselves in games such as these.
Ancelotti’s men were blunt and ineffective against PSG at the Parc des Princes. It takes them a while to get going and there’s a feeling that Real Madrid need a sense of urgency and their home support egging them on to produce something special.
That’s exactly what worked for them against PSG in the second leg of their Round of 16 tie at the Santiago Bernabeu. As such, Chelsea have a bit of a psychological advantage here.
#1 Chelsea have the quality to stifle and isolate Real Madrid’s wingers
Vinicius Jr. will be one player Chelsea will look to isolate. If the Brazilian gets to combine with Karim Benzema, then Real Madrid will find ways to break Chelsea’s defensive structure. But in Reece James, Chelsea have a right wing-back who’s equally adept at going forward and at dispensing his defensive duties.
He will look to make life hell for Vinicius Jr. and we’ve seen that James can be pretty effective at doing so. On the other flank, Ancelotti will need to choose between Marco Asensio and Rodrygo Goes. Asensio has been in poor form and Chelsea will be confident about containing him.
Additionally, Dani Carvajal has been nowhere near his best for Real Madrid. If Chelsea decide to target his wing, then Real Madrid’s centre-backs Eder Militao and David Alaba will have a lot of defending to do. Ferland Mendy’s struggles going forward have been well documented as well.
Suffice to say, Real Madrid’s defence is quite unsettled when compared to Chelsea. The Blues have a great three-man defence and Karim Benzema and co. will need to be really inventive to find a way past them.