Spanish champions Real Madrid are set to host in-form Premier League giants Chelsea at the Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium in the semi-final of the UEFA Champions League. The two sides are set to face off in their first-ever competitive meeting in the 21st century as they hope to progress to the UCL final.
Zinedine Zidane's men saw off English champions Liverpool with an aggregate scoreline of 3-1 in the quarter-finals, while Thomas Tuchel's Chelsea narrowly got past underdogs FC Porto.
Chelsea have been one of the most difficult teams to play against in Europe since Tuchel took over the reins at Stamford Bridge from Frank Lampard. The German has transformed the way the Blues approach the game and has made them a fearless unit capable of shutting out even the fiercest of attacks.
In the 21 games that Tuchel has overseen at Chelsea, they've kept a staggering 16 clean sheets and conceded only nine, five of which came against West Brom. The German has already registered clean sheets against the likes of Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
They've been imposing and have stamped their authority on games with ease. LaLiga Santander leaders Atletico Madrid found this out the hard way as the Rojiblancos failed to even leave a dent on Chelsea's backline throughout the 180 minutes of their knockout tie.
Real Madrid have also been a rigid defensive unit, but their problems predominantly are at the other end of the pitch.
Los Blancos have failed to score in three of their last four fixtures, having ended 0-0 against Liverpool, Getafe, and Real Betis. Their injury situation hasn't helped Real Madrid either, with the likes of Sergio Ramos, Fede Valverde, and Ferland Mendy set to miss the game.
As the two sides prepare for their blockbuster encounter in the Spanish capital, here, we take a look at a combined XI of available players between Real Madrid and Chelsea.
Real Madrid — Chelsea combined XI
Goalkeeper: Thibaut Courtois
Former Chelsea star Thibaut Courtois is set to face his former side in the Champions League and will be the first-choice keeper in this combined XI. While both sides have been blessed with superb options between the sticks in Courtois and Edouard Mendy, the Belgian takes this spot as he's been nearly unbeatable, particularly over the course of 2021.
The towering Real Madrid man boasts of a stunning 81.6% save percentage, which is the highest figure across the top five leagues of Europe, while Mendy has saved 70.6% of the shots he's faced.
Both Courtois and Mendy have managed 15 clean sheets in the league so far, but the Belgian has faced 31 more shots on target than the Senegalese and has a better save percentage. Mendy has kept three more clean sheets in Europe, but his Real Madrid counterpart has had a better season across all fronts.
Courtois has been a colossus at the back for Los Blancos this season, and the reigning Zamora Trophy winner gets the nod in goal for this side.
Defence: Reece James, Thiago Silva, Raphael Varane, Ben Chilwell
In what is essentially a match-up of two brilliant defensive set-ups, the heart of defence is, perhaps, the most difficult area of the XI to choose. While the Blues have a host of players to pick from, including the likes of Kurt Zouma, Andreas Christensen, and captain Cesar Azpilicueta, it is Brazilian veteran Thiago Silva who starts at centre-back.
The former Paris Saint-Germain captain has had an instant impact on Chelsea since moving from France and has added a sense of composure and solidity at the back even before Thomas Tuchel took over. Silva's vast experience of playing at the highest level has vastly benefited the Blues' defensive unit, and he is the ideal pick for central defence.
The 36-year-old has been in fine form as well, given that he was one of the best players on the pitch as Chelsea registered a clean sheet in their recent victory against Pep Guardiola's Manchester City at Wembley.
Tuchel's former star will be accompanied by his teammate, Reece James, on the right-hand side. James is a relatively easy choice for the full-back slot given that first-choice Real Madrid man Dani Carvajal has spent a large part of the season on the sidelines. The Englishman has also been in fantastic form this season, with his impressive displays even earning him a call-up to Gareth Southgate's England squad.
Real Madrid stalwart Raphael Varane will partner Silva at the heart of defence for this side. After a disappointing end to last season's UCL campaign and a few shaky games at the start of the season, the French star has seemingly returned to top form and contributed heavily to Real Madrid's superb defensive form this season.
If Sergio Ramos was available for the game, he would have partnered Silva in defence, but the Spaniard is unavailable for selection. Varane's compatriot and teammate Ferland Mendy could have joined him in this XI as he has been one of the best full-backs in world football.
However, Zidane has confirmed that the French star will also be unavailable for the game, paving the way for Ben Chilwell to start at left-back. The Englishman has had an impressive season in his own right as he's been vital for Chelsea on both offensive and defensive fronts, having accumulated five league assists and two goals.
Chilwell makes it over the other options on the left of defence, such as Marcos Alonso, Nacho Fernandez, Marcelo, and Emerson Palmieri.
Midfield: Luka Modric, Casemiro, Toni Kroos
Much like central defence, midfield is another area of the pitch that is packed with several options to choose from. N'Golo Kante appears to be back to his best after an injury-riddled 2019/20 campaign, and has put in a some brilliant performances for the Blues this year.
Jorginho is another top choice after a great season so far, along with his teammate Mateo Kovacic, who has been ruled out of the game due to a hamstring injury.
For all their merits, Kante and Jorginho are unfortunately up against the best midfield in world football for a place in this combined XI. Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, and Casemiro — Real Madrid's iconic midfield trio that helped them win three successive UCLs under Zidane — still reign supreme.
Kroos and Modric have been instrumental in Real Madrid's UCL campaign so far with a string of magnificent displays with their backs against the wall, given that they were drawn in one of the most difficult groups of the 2020/21 edition and risked an embarrassing group stage elimination.
The German, in particular, is arguably one of the first names on the teamsheet and is enjoying one of the best seasons of his career at Real Madrid.
No player in the UCL so far has registered more passes into the final third (112), progressive passes (90), touches (935), and Kroos has created more chances than any player bar Juan Cuadrado with 25, one less than the Colombian. He also has more assists (ten) in all competitions, more than any midfielder across both Real Madrid and Chelsea.
Despite turning 35, Modric has also been at the top of his game and has been as vital as ever to Zidane's men. The Croat ran the show across both legs against Atalanta in the Round of 16 and was brilliant against Liverpool as well.
No active player in the competition can better his 68 progressive carries from the middle of the park, and his tallies of 73 passes into the final third, 60 progressive passes, and 786 touches are only second to Kroos among the UCL's final four sides. Modric also has three assists to his name, the joint second-highest in the competition, with only Kevin De Bruyne registering more (four).
The two have been excellently supported by Casemiro, who was arguably the Blancos' most crucial player against Liverpool. The Brazilian helped shield their second-string defence of Nacho and Eder Militao to perfection and was the Man of the Match during the second leg against Liverpool for a brilliant all-round display.
Overall, he has been a titan in midfield for Zidane's side, and has often been a one-man wall in front of the Blancos' defence. It is harsh to leave out a player of N'Golo Kante's stature and form, but his Real Madrid counterpart Casemiro has been infallible so far across all fronts this season and is set to anchor this combined XI's midfield.
Attack: Mason Mount, Karim Benzema, Timo Werner
Mason Mount picked up right where he left off under Frank Lampard's management by putting in a string of stellar displays for Chelsea. The Englishman has been phenomenal for the Blues and has been utilised in several different positions by Tuchel, including appearances in the front three.
Mount was deployed on the right at the Wanda Metropolitano, and he was simply superb on the night, constantly finding pockets of space to drop into and linking up play in the final third. He played a slightly withdrawn role in the recent FA Cup semi-final win against Manchester City and was vital in helping create the winning goal.
The 22-year-old will play a withdrawn role off the right, similar to how he lined up against Atleti. With James picked over Azpilicueta at right-back, he can be afforded more space to drop into as his compatriot will be tasked with providing width on the flank.
The English midfielder will be joined by his team-mate Timo Werner in the front three of this combined XI. While there are a few options to choose from for this spot, including Hakim Ziyech, Christian Pulisic, Vinicius Jr, and others, Werner — despite his struggles in front of goal this season — is a bigger goal threat than the others.
Perhaps the story would have been different if Eden Hazard was fit to start, but the Belgian is likely to be utilised off the bench as he is far from being match fit.
The German forward played a vital role in helping Chelsea beat Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-final as he tormented one of the best defences in Europe with his searing pace and runs in behind. It was his ball to set up Hakim Ziyech that led to the winner. Werner also scored a crucial winner against West Ham to give the Blues an edge in the race for Premier League's top four heading into this fixture.
Only three active players — Kylian Mbappe, Vinicius, and Karim Benzema — better his tally of 12 carries into the penalty area, highlighting the frequency with which Werner breaches opposition defences with his incredible pace. He also has three assists to his name, with only De Bruyne registering more (four).
Real Madrid's in-form superstar Karim Benzema rounds off the front three of this combined XI. The French veteran has been in sublime touch this season, scoring a staggering 26 goals, a figure that is more than both of Chelsea's top scorers Werner (11) and Tammy Abraham (12) combined.
Benzema has also scored mighty important goals for the Blancos this season. He netted the opener in the recent El Clasico, the opener against Atalanta in the Round of 16, a crucial brace to keep Real Madrid in the UCL against Borussia Monchengladbach, and a host of others.
The 33-year-old has five UCL goals to his name this year, and only Toni Kroos has created more chances than Benzema's 18 among active players in the competition.
Given that the Frenchman excels in linking up play in the final third, Benzema could form a deadly combination with a player as quick as Werner and someone with the spatial awareness that Mount possesses.