Chelsea travel to the Estadio Alfredo di Stefano to take on Real Madrid in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League semifinal. The Blues have improved tremendously under Thomas Tuchel and are two wins away from booking their place in another final, having already done so in the FA Cup by beating Manchester City earlier this month.
Real Madrid are the most successful club in the history of the competition and have been a force to be reckoned with in recent seasons under Zinedine Zidane. However, Chelsea are capable of going toe to toe with the La Liga giants and will look to repeat their heroics from the historic 2011-12 season -- when they beat Spanish side Barcelona in the semifinal to make it to the final.
Both teams have been relatively untroubled in the knockout stages so far, as they prepare to lock horns in what could be an intriguing tactical battle between the two managers. Chelsea brushed aside Atletico Madrid in the Round of 16 and saw off FC Porto in the quarterfinal, with Mason Mount’s goal one of their standout moments in the competition so far.
Real Madrid, on the other hand, got out of a tricky group involving Shakhtar Donetsk, Inter Milan and Borussia Monchengladbach and were drawn against Atalanta in the Round of 16. Ferland Mendy’s late goal in the first leg was the solitary goal of the tie, as their victory led to a mouthwatering clash against Liverpool.
Los Blancos expected a close game against the Premier League champions, but they recorded a comfortable 3-1 aggregate victory thanks to a clinical first-leg showing. Zidane’s side have been hampered by injuries, but the situation has eased in recent weeks, with Raphael Varane, Toni Kroos and former Chelsea superstar Eden Hazard and fit and ready to play.
Hazard is expected to take center stage, with the Belgian maestro set to come up against Chelsea for the first time since his big-money move to Real Madrid in the summer of 2019. His return to the starting XI could be a massive boost for the home side, as he looks set to join Vinicius Jr and Karim Benzema upfront.
The tried and tested trio of Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Casemiro and expected to start in midfield, while Eder Militao is set to partner Varane at the back due to Sergio Ramos’ absence. Former Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois is also set to come up against his former employers for the first time, having swapped London for the Spanish capital in 2018.
As for Chelsea, former Real Madrid midfielder Mateo Kovacic is the only injury absentee, with the Serbian suffering from a hamstring problem. In his absence, Jorginho and N’Golo Kante are set to start in midfield, while Mason Mount could be deployed in an attacking midfield position for Chelsea.
Tuchel is spoilt for choice in terms of attacking options, with Hakim Ziyech, Kai Havertz, Christian Pulisic, Timo Werner, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Olivier Giroud at his disposal. Tammy Abraham has not featured in recent weeks and it remains to be seen if the Englishman makes the matchday squad for the first leg.
Both Chelsea and Real Madrid have enough quality to go all the way in the UEFA Champions League. The Blues are just two games away from reaching the final and will look to go all the way as they did so in 2012, as they prepare to get their hands on the coveted trophy for the second time in their history.