Six days after the first-leg setback at Stamford Bridge, the Blues are in Spain on the quest to turn our quarter-final tie around. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton preview a big night ahead…
In a month’s time the people of Madrid will celebrate the feast of Isidore, the patron saint of the city and especially its agricultural workers. But tonight it falls on Chelsea, 1-3 down to Real from the first leg, to labor on the field of Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, and hopefully harvest a Champions League semi-final place at the expense of European royalty.It is a tough ask , but it is not two-nil-down-with-a-man-sent-off-and-50-minutes-to-go-at-Camp-Nou tough, and the reigning European champions arrive on the back of a doubt -purging 6-0 victory at Southampton. During last season’s 1-1 away draw with tonight’s hosts, the Blues outgunned the hosts by five shots on target to one.
Beaten Saints boss Ralph Hasenhuttl pinpointed the difference between Saturday’s sides being the Blues’ ‘super-aggression’, a spirit notice absentably against the 13-times European champions a week ago. Last season the Londoners’ power and pace had the current La Liga leaders on the ropes for long periods.
With no ‘away goals rule’ Chelsea require victory by two clear goals to take the tie to extra time. Whoever prevails this evening will meet either Manchester City or Atletico Madrid in the last four. Their tie, which City lead 1-0, also reaches its conclusion in the Spanish capital tomorrow evening.
Chelsea team news
In the wake of Wednesday’s first-leg defeat, Thomas Tuchel was asked whether this tie was ‘still alive’. ‘No,’ he answered, adding, ‘we need three goals and how often did this happen?’
His players responded in the best way at St Mary’s, recording our quickest ever three-goal lead in the Premier League on the road. In fact, no top-flight team has scored four away so swiftly since the Blues at Bolton in October 2011. So the team has goals in it.
Equally pertinent will be closing the space Real found in wide areas and resulting crosses that did the damage in the first leg. Although Ruben Loftus-Cheek at right wing-back and Marcos Alonso on the left plus a back three offered better balance at the back, it could be asking a lot of the England midfielder to shackle Vinicius Junior.
Thomas Tuchel has inclined towards a back four for those very reasons and his options include a rested Reece James and Cesar Azpilicueta newly liberated from Covid.
A few other people pressed their case for selection in the Titanic thrashing of Southampton, not least Timo Werner (despite his ‘perfect woodtrick’ of left post, right post and crossbar) and Mason Mount, who both hit braces.
The England man also initiated ferocious pressing, forcing errors and gaining possession high upfield, something pointedly lacking against Real last time out. Chelsea will hope to expose right-back Dani Carvajal more than at the Bridge, where he enjoyed significant help from right-winger Fede Valverde.
Romelu Lukaku and Callum Hudson-Odoi have not travelled due to injury, but Kai Havertz is on fire, the silky German netting eight goals in his past 11 games on all fronts – including in the first leg of this tie. A Real Madrid central defense lacking suspended Eder Militao might be just what we need.
Spanish papers likened Real’s 2-0 loss at the Bridge last season to them being struck by a train. The Blues now have the chance to put the defense of the title back on track on one of world football’s biggest platforms.
Carlo Ancelotti will be grateful the third goal gifted his team at Stamford Bridge makes their task to keep the holders at bay a little easier. However, defensive mainstay Eder Militao is suspended as a result of the third caution of the campaign he received in London. Likely stand-in is Nacho Fernandez.
Better news for the former Blues coach is that Ferland Mendy, carrying a slight injury and rested on Saturday night, seems set to start this evening. The solid left-back’s presence is crucial to Vinicius Junior, who often has license to stay high upfield.
Veterans Toni Kroos, 32, and Luka Modric, 36, who bossed midfield against the Blues were spared any involvement in their game at the weekend. In last season’s semi-final games they were far less influential, and overrun at times.
On Saturday evening, Getafe drifted in from Madrid’s suburbs but Karim Benzema, who became the first player to score a Champions League hat-trick against the Blues, could not find the target. Gareth Bale came on late to replace the Frenchman at centre-forward, to a host of whistles, in a routine 2-0.
Tonight the hosts may sit back and take the visitors’ sting, hoping to hit home with direct counter-attacks as they did in the first leg. Conceding Real had to play their best 90 minutes of the season at the Bridge, midfielder Casemiro warned ‘we can’t be over-confident: Chelsea are the reigning champions.’
Champions League regulations
Five substitutions are allowed in the Champions League, as are concussion replacements. As of this season the so-called ‘away goals rule’ has been abolished. Should the aggregate score be level after 90 minutes this evening the tie will go to extra time and, if required, a penalty shoot-out, irrespective of the number of away goals a team has scored.All cautions not leading to a suspension will expire after this round of matches, but until then three yellow cards mean a ban. Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Toni Rudiger would miss the next European fixture if cautioned tonight.
The draw for the semi-finals has already been made, with the winner of this tie facing whoever progresses from Manchester City versus Atletico. Chelsea faced both in last season’s competition and the Citizens take a narrow 1-0 advantage to the Metropolitano stadium tomorrow evening.
The final will be staged at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, in the north of Paris, on Saturday 28 May.
Recovering a two-goal deficit with 90 minutes to play is marginally less daunting than the turnaround Chelsea managed in 2012 at another famous Spanish stadium, Camp Nou. At one point, the Blues were trailing 0-2 and had had John Terry dismissed for an off-the-ball foul on Barcelona’s Alexis Sanchez with 50 minutes to go.
Prospects looked black. The turning point in that tie came when Frank Lampard released Ramires for a divine chipped finish. Previously leading 1-0 from the first leg, at 2-2 – thanks to the away goals rule – Chelsea were now able to sit back and resist Messi and co. until the siege wasd by Fernando Torres’s equaliser.
Other rousing examples include Ajax 2019 (1-4 to 4-4), the quarter-final second leg against Vicenza in 1998, Bruges, twice, in 1971 and 1995 of course the 2012 final on Bayern Munich’s home patch. The Blues must invoke the indomitable spirit of Drogba, Lampard and Osgood tonight.
Chelsea have met teams from the Iberian peninsula plenty of times in recent years. Four of the seven teams the Blues faced on the path to glory last season – in Porto – hailed from there including, of course, Real Madrid. On top of that, Valencia were in our group the previous season, and Villarreal were defeated in this season’s UEFA Super Cup.
However, this will be the our first-ever competitive visit to the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, as it was unavailable last April due to redevelopment. Instead, the away leg was played at the Alfredo Di Stefano training ground, Due to the pandemic, no supporters were allowed to attend. Unfortunately, the ongoing renovations will restrict attendance at the legendary stadium this time.
There was virtually a full crowd present in June 2019 when a Chelsea XI faced Real’s ‘legends’ for an eventful 5-4 win for the hosts. Two icons of both clubs – Ricardo Carvalho and Claude Makelele – switched shirts during the 90 minutes.
we have history
In last year’s semi-final the Blues might have sealed progress in the first leg, so dominant were we for long periods. Having only Christian Pulisic’s early solo strike to show for our authority, we were pegged back by a Karim Benzema bicycle-kick equaliser and settled for a 1-1 draw, our fourth straight game unbeaten on Spanish soil.
Chelsea could set a historic new high this evening with an eighth successive away win across all competitions. The Blues’ current run of seven has equalled the club record established between January and April 1989 (mostly Division Two) and matched from August to November 2019 (in the Champions League and Premier League, and including a 4-1 at Southampton). The 6-0 scoreline at St Mary’s matched our biggest away league win in the top flight, and second best on any level.
Anniversary of crucial blues breakthrough
Forty years ago today Paul Canoville came off the bench to replace match-winner Clive Walker at Crystal Palace to become the first black debutant in Chelsea’s senior side. The racist abuse he suffered from Blues then and over the ensuing months was horrendous, but his fortitude, perseverance and ultimate silencing of the bigots paved the way for dozens to follow, many of them now icons of the club.
Champions League quarter-finals second leg
TuesdayReal Madrid v Chelsea 8pm (3-1)Bayern Munich v Villarreal 8pm (0-1)
WednesdayLiverpool v Benfica 8pm (3-1)Atletico v Man City 8pm (0-1)