The most glamorous and biggest club football competition, UEFA Champions League is back with its semi-final fixtures. After all the European Super League fiasco, this is the first time the competition will return. Real Madrid, the record holders are up against Chelsea. While Paris Saint-Germain faces off against Manchester City in the clash of heavyweights. The 4 sides will be looking to make it to Istanbul for the final on 29th May.
We at Ball that Matters, are here with the preview of the first of those 2 matches. Real Madrid vs Chelsea which will be played at Alfredo Di Stefano, Madrid on Tuesday. On one side, you have got Real Madrid who rules in this competition and on the other side, we have a resurgent and resilient Chelsea side. You do expect a good match at the Semi-final stage, and these sides will definitely live up to it.
Why to watch out for
There is absolutely no reason to miss Champions League football, especially with the competition reaching the semi-final stages. The two sides have arguably punched above their weights this season, keeping in mind the injuries and managerial change. Real Madrid impressed in their win against Liverpool while Chelsea displayed their defensive resilience which has seen major improvement under Thomas Tuchel.
This match is special for yet another reason, with players returning to play against their former clubs. Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois who switched allegiance to Madrid will face off against their former employees. On the other side, Mateo Kovacic will have something to prove to the Madrid club.
Los Blancos are coming on the back off two disappointing draws in La Liga which has seen them fall behind in the title race. Injuries have been their achilles’ heel throughout the season, and the same was seen against Getafe and Real Betis with Kroos and Mendy missing out. Their form in the last week was not upto their standard but as they say, “Real Madrid always turns up on Champions League nights.” This is exactly what Zidane will be expecting from his men when they host the Londoners for the first leg
The Blues’ will come into the match high on confidence after their 1-0 win against West Ham. The win saw Chelsea edge closer to securing their Champions League place for next season. Tuchel will be demanding the same composure from his side when they face Real Madrid who come with all their experience playing such high-intensity matches. Werner who found the net against West Ham will hope to keep up his form in the Champions League.
Team News and Line-ups
The hosts come into the fixture without their captain and long-term absentee Sergio Ramos, who has resumed individual training but not fit enough yet to make the squad. Apart from Ramos, Federico Valverde (Covid), Ferland Mendy (Soleus Muscle) and Lucas Vasquez (PCL) will miss the first leg against Chelsea. However, the capital side have been boosted by the return of Dani Carvajal and Toni Kroos who makes the squad after being declared fit.
It is difficult to predict the line-up of Zinedine Zidane, which was seen in the matches against Liverpool and Barcelona. However, Raphael Varane will return at the heart of defence after recovering from Covid, and he will be partnered by Nacho and Militao in a 3-man defence.
Marcelo and Carvajal will continue as wingbacks with the ever-reliant midfield trio of Kroos, Casemiro and Modric. In the forward line, Karim Benzema will be partnered by the Brazilian Vinicius who impressed against Liverpool.
Starting XI: 3-5-2
Defense – Militao Varane Nacho
Midfield- Carvajal Kroos Casemiro Modric Marcelo
Attack- Benzema Vinicius
Mateo Kovacic is out for the first leg against his former side after nursing a hamstring injury. Other than that, the London side have a full squad available.
Edouard Mendy will be continuing in goal for Chelsea. Sitting ahead of him in the defence will be Cesar Azpilicueta, Thiago Silva and Rudiger. Wingbacks have played an important role under Tuchel and same will be seen against Madrid with Reece James and Chilwell flanking the sides on either side of Kante and Jorginho.
In the attack, Mason Mount who is in brilliant form will be supported by Timo Werner and either of Pulisic or Hakim Ziyech.
Starting XI: 3-4-3
Defense- Azpilicueta Silva Rudiger
Midfield- James Kante Jorginho Chilwell
Attack- Ziyech Werner Mount
Head- to- Head
The two sides have only met thrice in the UEFA Competitions with Chelsea coming on top twice and drawing once. Other than that, Real Madrid and Chelsea faced off in friendlies in 2013 and 2016.
Players to Watch out for
The Frenchman has been the vital cog of Madrid attack, contributing in 75% of the goals since 2018. Benzema who also falls back in the midfield to create, will help to draw defenders out and eventually open the space for Vinicius to run into. The Madrid talisman is the 4th highest active goalscorer in Champions League history and already has 5 goals this season.
Madrid, as the story has been this season, will rely on his goals to overcome Chelsea and get into the Champions League finals.
The Brazilian tank has been a revelation since signing for Real Madrid. He has played a vital role in Madrid’s three-peat success and forms a part of the dominant midfield with Kroos and Modric. With Sergio Ramos unavailable, the Brazilian will be key to halt and breakdown Chelsea’s attacks and stop Mason Mount.
Casemiro is also important on the other side of the field, as he is seen surging forward quite a few times and get on the end of crosses. The Brazilian has already scored this season in the group stage against Monchengladbach and will be hoping to do the same against the Londoners.
The Englishmen has been a vital cog of Chelsea’s attack this season both under Lampard and Tuchel. He has established himself as one of the first names in the starting 11 and will be expected to lead the attack against Madrid in their quest to reach the final.
Although he only has 1 goal and 1 assist in the Champions League this season, his presence has been important for the Blues’. Mount who can play across the line of attack, will play a vital role to negate the experienced Madrid midfield.
The left-back was signed in the summer from Leicester City with high expectations, and it is safe to say he has just done enough to prove it right. The Englishmen took time to settle into Tuchel’s style of play but has been brilliant ever since. Chilwell scored in Chelsea’s win over Porto to add to the tally of his 2 Premier League goals. The defender also forms a part of a tough-to-break Chelsea defence which has been watertight throughout the season.
On Tuesday, he will be up against Dani Carvajal, which will be one of the battles to watch out for. His crosses and late runs into the box can possess a threat to the Madrid defense.
It will be one of the most tactical battles to watch out for as Zidane’s side will try to prevent Chelsea from getting the crucial away goal. Chelsea’s defense on the other hand has been good but they will be expected to concede against Madrid. All in all, we are up for an exciting encounter for the UCL semis.
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