Real Madrid and Chelsea square off in the knockout round of the UEFA Champions League (UCL) for the third consecutive season, with the winners of the previous two matches going on to win the title. They’ll likely put everything on the line to win Europe’s top club championship after both teams struggled in the league this season and suffered one-goal defeats over the weekend.
Madrid will be entirely focused on defending their record-tying 14th UCL title after being shocked by Villarreal on Saturday night (L 3-2). This loss effectively destroyed Madrid’s prospects of regaining the La Liga championship. Madrid shouldn’t be concerned about Chelsea’s coming given that they have won their last four encounters with English clubs, including the final against Liverpool last year.
Chelsea’s Premier League struggles continued over the weekend as interim manager Frank Lampard was unable to turn around the team’s performance against Wolves (L 1-0). The highlight of Graham Potter’s brief tenure was their 2-0 victory over Borussia Dortmund to advance, therefore it is reasonable to think that they will step up their game once more as they pursue a third UCL championship.
The Blues haven’t lost an away game on Spanish soil since March 2018 (W2, D2), which includes two trips to the Spanish capital to face Real Madrid. They won 3-2 after extra time here last season despite losing 5-4 on aggregate (W1, D1). Yet, they cannot take anything for granted given that Dortmund defeated them 1-0 in the first leg of their round of 16 encounter in Germany, and they have only won one of their previous 13 away competitive games (D3, L9).
In both of Madrid’s most recent games, Vincius Jnior scored between the 40th and 50th minute and contributed an assist in each leg of the playoff match up from the previous season. Last season at the Bernabéu, Mateo Kovai, who added the final goal in Chelsea’s victory away from home, also contributed an assist.
Ferland Mendy, who is still recovering from a calf injury sustained in training last month, is the lone injured player being cared for by the Real Madrid medical staff. He should be the only absentee for the hosts in this game.
The likes of Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Eder Militao, and Eduardo Camavinga – who played the full 90 minutes in both legs against Liverpool – should all be in line for recalls to the starting lineup as a result of Ancelotti’s decision to rest numerous prominent players for the defeat to Villarreal.
The same is true for Federico Valverde, who allegedly assaulted Alex Baena of Villarreal after the game over a remark the 21-year-old made about his pregnant child. Baena has vehemently disputed the allegation.
Baena has reported the incident to the police, according to Villarreal, but as of this writing, there is no evidence to suggest that Valverde won’t be available for Wednesday’s game.
Mason Mount, a midfielder for Chelsea, is a doubt for the match at the Bernabeu despite traveling with the team. The Englishman is eligible to return from a Champions League suspension for the first leg.
Cesar Azpilicueta (head) and Armando Broja (knee) are still recovering, while Thiago Silva has already arrived. The other four players—Benoit Badiashile, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Noni Madueke, and David Datro Fofana—are not included in the Blues’ Champions League roster.
N’Golo Kante’s omission from the team to play Wolves raised eyebrows, but the Frenchman’s absence was only precautionary after he recovered from a hamstring injury. He should expect a speedy recall to the fold along with Dortmund hero Ben Chilwell.
Courtois, Carvajal, Militao, Rudiger, Alaba; Modric, Camavinga, Kroos; Valverde, Benzema, and Vinicius Jr might be Real Madrid’s starting lineup.
Kepa, James, Fofana, Koulibaly, Chilwell; Kovacic, Fernandez, Kante; Sterling, Havertz, and Felix might be Chelsea’s starting lineup.
Real Madrid defeat Chelsea, 3–1.
Chelsea’s remarkable record of avoiding defeat against the holders should come to an end in a comprehensive manner, despite the fact that they appear to have a formula for success against Champions League champions.
Villarreal demonstrated that Ancelotti’s team is far from impenetrable at the back, but Los Blancos rested a number of prominent players over the weekend and should be fully confident of building a sizable first-leg advantage before traveling to Stamford Bridge next week.