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Wednesday 20:00 – Chelsea v Real Madrid
BT Sport 2
Chelsea looked like running away with last week’s first leg prior to Karim Benzema’s volleyed equaliser and will be disappointed this tie remains firmly in the balance. However, Thomas Tuchel’s side faded badly after the concession of that equaliser and have plenty of work to do on Wednesday if they are to secure passage to their third Champions League final.
They will take confidence from that opening half-hour and will look to start the same way at Stamford Bridge against a Real Madrid side that is nowhere near the levels it was at three years ago.
Madrid were fortunate to even qualify from the group stages of the competition, and would be playing Europa League football right now were it not for two late goals at Borussia Monchengladbach. They find themselves in the last four of the competition largely thanks to a favourable draw that saw them beat an Atalanta side that played with ten men for 73 minutes in the first leg and subsequently beat a badly off-colour Liverpool side that practically put the ball in the net for them.
Meanwhile, they seriously jeopardised their title hopes in Spain with disappointing 0-0 draws against Getafe and Betis when the title was there for the taking. Chelsea exposed their frailties in that opening half-hour and Tuchel’s well-coached outfit can put them to the sword on Wednesday.
Chelsea’s defending was uncharacteristically poor for Benzema’s equaliser last week, but their record under Tuchel remains phenomenal.
They have now kept 17 clean sheets in 23 games under Tuchel following their 2-0 win over Fulham on Saturday and are more than capable of extending that record against a Real Madrid side that have struggled to score goals lately and are far too reliant on the talents of Benzema.
The Spanish champions have drawn blanks in three of their last six games in all competitions and boast the worst goalscoring record of the top three in Spain, while they have scored 22 fewer goals than Barcelona in La Liga. Benzema, meanwhile, has scored 35% of Madrid’s goals in all competitions and 42 per cent of their goals in Europe.
Chelsea will go a long way towards booking their place in the Champions League final if they can contain the French forward.
As good as Chelsea have been defensively since Tuchel’s arrival, they have been somewhat underwhelming going forward and their forwards must take the blame. Chelsea have managed to score more than two goals in the same game on just one occasion at Stamford Bridge since the appointment of their new boss, despite taking on every side in the bottom half.
Timo Werner’s lack of a goalscoring touch has been well documented, but he is far from the only problem. Mason Mount is capable of moments of brilliance in front of goal, but he is not a regular goalscorer, while Kai Havertz has been far too inconsistent, even if he has shown green shoots of recovery lately.
Olivier Giroud and Tammy Abraham, on the other hand, simply don’t get enough minutes to make a telling impact. Christian Pulisic struck for Chelsea last week in Spain and the American remains their biggest threat ahead of the second leg. Pulisic has been in excellent form recently, scoring four goals in nine games in all competitions.
That may not seem overly impressive, but no Chelsea player has scored more in the same timeframe and Pulisic’s game is not solely based on his goalscoring ability. He can be the difference in a finely poised tie.
Real Madrid’s midfield enforcer is undoubtedly one of the best players in his position in world football, but his disciplinary record leaves a lot to be desired. Casemiro has been booked a staggering 13 times for Real Madrid in all competitions this season, including four times in the Champions League.
He is by far the most ill-disciplined player in Zinedine Zidane’s squad and has been the recipient of one in every six yellow cards issued to Real Madrid players this season. The Brazilian makes essentially two fouls per game in La Liga and will have his hands full against Chelsea’s nimble attacking players. It’s easy to see him adding to his wretched record on Wednesday night.
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