Date: Tuesday 27th April 2021
Venue: Alfredo Di Stefano
Kick-off: 20:00 BST
Tonight, Chelsea play Real Madrid in the Champions League, having reached the semi-finals for the first time since 2014.
Real Madrid, who beat Liverpool 3-1 on aggregate in the quarter-finals, have conceded just two goals in their last five Champions League matches and have won nine of their last 10 knockout ties in the tournament. Chelsea beat Porto 2-1 on aggregate to book their place and have only conceded three times in the Champions League so far. So, tonight’s game should see two pretty tight defensive performances if league form is anything to go on. Real Madrid are on a 17-game unbeaten run across all competitions and have kept four consecutive clean sheets ahead of tonight’s game and Chelsea are unbeaten in 10 away games and have gone three successive games without conceding.
In La Liga, Real Madrid were held to a 0-0 draw against Real Betis at the weekend, whilst Chelsea beat West Ham 1-0 to keep themselves fourth in the table by a 3-point margin. Chelsea’s biggest problem has been not scoring enough and whilst we’ve held on for points at times in the Premier League, Real Madrid might prove harder to do that against. Courtois won’t want to let anything past him and they’ll also throw plenty at us, particularly with Eden Hazard fit again.
Understandably, being the first Champions League semi-final in a long time and having won it in 2012, comparisons are already being drawn. 2012 was almost scripted though, it was special, this season seems to be special for all the wrong reasons. For a start, we’re playing a semi-final most outside begrudge. In fact, if there was a way to see both sides lose, the footballing world would undoubtedly rejoice. They’ll be disappointed though because that’s not how it works and judging by Real Madrid’s last three semi-finals, how it usually works is they end up lifting the trophy.
Going into today’s game, Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane, says “I believe we have to pay attention to tomorrow’s match but as we don’t control that [referees], it is going to be another obsession in this game. The answer is the referee will do his job as usual and we need to play football. If we think about anything they say that could damage us then it is going to be complicated. It will be a mess. We have to think about tomorrow’s match, play our match, the referees will do their job, we have to play from minute one until minute 90.
I don’t see Eden having any doubts. He looked very good on the field the other day. That was the most important, not feeling anything from his old problems. Now he is good, and now to push on. We are happy to have him with us, he will bring a lot to the team. Now he is with us, he is also happy because he is going to contribute to the team a lot.”
Thomas Tuchel, meanwhile, says “If it’s not possible to play our nicest match we are able to not let the opponent play their best match, which is also a definition of performance. So we have a strong bond within the squad, I feel us very, very involved physically in the games, ready to work together, to suffer together. And when it’s needed to respond to the questions, if it’s necessary to fight, to fight, to run to run, if it’s the moment to show your skills or escape pressure with passing, or be dominant, we have in every match moments where we can do this.
The level is so high when you arrive at a Champions League semi-final. But we should not expect crazy things from us, but the same again on the highest level. The good thing is we have the experience together, we’ve had tough matches, tight matches, very important matches in the PL and FA Cup. So we feel that it’s a good moment to play this match, and we want to play hungry and we want to play adventurous. Maybe if there’s a bit of a lack of experience in a semi-final, to compensate with hunger and enthusiasm.”
For Real Madrid, Sergio Ramos (calf), Lucas Vazquez (knee), Ferland Mendy (calf) are all out and Federico Valverde (Covid) remains in isolation, but Eden Hazard is fit and Toni Kroos should return.
For Chelsea, Mateo Kovacic (hamstring) remains out.
REAL MADRID (Possible line-up): Courtois; Carvajal, Varane, Militao, Nacho; Casemiro, Kroos, Modric; Asensio, Benzema, Vinicius
CHELSEA (Possible line-up): Mendy; Azpilicueta, Silva, Rudiger; James, Jorginho, Kante, Chilwell; Mount; Werner, Pulisic
CURRENT FORM (CL)
REAL MADRID: LWWWWD
- This will be the 163rd Uefa Champions League match between English and Spanish teams.
- Real Madrid have faced Chelsea more often than any other side in all competitions without winning in their entire history.
- Chelsea are set to play in their eighth Champions League semi-final, the most of any English club,
- Real Madrid have played in 13 semi-finals before tonight.
- Chelsea have only lost the first leg in one of their seven previous Champions League semi-finals (Monaco 2003-04).
- Real Madrid have won the first leg of nine of their last 10 Champions League knockout ties.
- This is Real Madrid’s first semi-final since 2017-18.
Sportsmole: Real Madrid 1-0 Chelsea