Stamford Bridge hosts an almighty capital city clash tonight for a place in Europe’s big showpiece final. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton shine the spotlight on our decisive match with the Spaniards…
Chelsea versus Real in a Champions League semi-final second leg is one of those very rare and very special soirées. The night is a starry dome and, for one club, the moon’s waning crescent will symbolise the dashing of dreams of glory in Turkey.
At Stamford Bridge the iconic banners celebrating past players are in the stands (if not, crushingly, the supporters responsible for them) and tonight new heroes can embroider their names onto the fabric of the famous stadium.
After impressing in the 1-1 draw in the rain in Spain, the Londoners also know a clean sheet would be sufficient to reach the showpiece in Istanbul on 29 May. That is easier said than done, however, against ring-crafty Real, who will have a few of their champions back for this second leg.
Los Blancos arrive with issues still to address in team selection, and on the back of a winless streak in England stretching back four games (two losses, two draws) to 2014, with just two away goals scored.
Nor will Real’s Champions League track record in their current situation inspire optimism back home: they have previously drawn 1-1 three times at home in a first leg – against Bayern in 1975/76, PSV 1987/88 and Milan 1988/89 – and failed to progress on each occasion. The Blues also have the longest unbeaten run against the Castilians of any opponent, stretching back to the Cup Winners’ Cup final in 1971.
This is Chelsea’s 15th appearance in the last four of a European competition. The Blues have reached the final in four of the past six.
Emma Hayes’ Women have already blazed the trail by beating Bayern 4-1 to reach their Champions League showdown with Barcelona in Gothenburg. No club has ever reached the men’s and women’s finals in the same season. To become the first, Chelsea must show courage and belief against Europe’s most successful trophy-gatherers.
Chelsea have progressed from five of the last seven knockout ties in the Champions League after avoiding defeat in the first leg on the road.
— KEY STAT
Chelsea team news
The Blues will go all out to write a new chapter in the club’s history against Real Madrid this evening. Any victory or a clean sheet against Europe’s most successful club will propel the Londoners to a third Champions league final.
Eight days after the 1-1 draw, the question is: did the Londoners gain more in self-belief after bossing much of that encounter than the Castilians have gleaned tactically.
The Blues played with intensity, courage and progressiveness and only wayward decision-making and execution prevented the Spanish grandees suffering a bigger and possible fatal wound at the Di Stefano Stadium.
Thomas Tuchel admits he has found the schedule brutal and relentless, but knows that at the end of a season that is an honourable burden – it indicates a club is close to achieving multiple targets.
Momentum, fitness, and hopefully good fortune are with his squad. It is likely Mateo Kovavic will be the only enforced absentee from his 23-player match day squad, though Toni Rudiger may have to wear a protective mask.
The Bavarian can make full use of the five substitutes permitted and may adopt an if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it approach, with virtually the same 11 that shook the hosts in the first half last Tuesday with their pace, deft touches and athleticism.
That was especially the case in defence, where an experienced back-three were rendered statuesque as Christian Pulisic weaved into the box, rounded former Chelsea ’keeper Thibaut Courtois and scored a potentially vital away goal.
Zinedine Zidane said yesterday he will counter Chelsea’s ‘strengths’, which may include a fellow France World Cup-winner. N’Golo Kante was simply sensational in the first leg, winning possession high upfield and driving into wide open spaces behind Real’s press.
Vital to the Blues’ dominance in the opening 45 was Pulisic or another standout, Mason Mount, dropping into midfield to harass Real’s trio. Tuchel’s men also pressured their backline relentlessly, with pushed-on wing-backs and judicious use of long passes, opening up the final third.
Still, the Blues would be building on a first leg lead this evening had more of our chances been taken in Valdebebas. With his coolly dispatched two goals from two shots against Fulham on Saturday, Kai Havertz may have secured a starting role at the apex.
In the same game Timo Werner hit double figures in goals and assists – the first to do so in his debut season since Eden Hazard, who returns to his old stamping ground tonight.
As in Spain, Edou Mendy made crucial saves in the west London derby, earning his 23rd clean sheet in 39 matches for Chelsea in all competitions. One more blank against Los Blancos will see the Blues through.
The Real thing
A half-century in injuries this season has taken its toll on the Real Madrid squad and Zinedine Zidane’s infirmary has seen further ins and outs since Tuesday.
The big returnees are centre-half and skipper Sergio Ramos (after missing 10 games), left-back Ferland Mendy and midfielder Fede Valverde, while Marcelo has been released from his call-up for election duty. On Saturday former Stamford Bridge star Eden Hazard also added 70 minutes to his comeback from a variety of injuries.
However, both Real’s preferred right-backs, Dani Carvajal and Lucas Vasquez, are now incapacitated and Raphael Varane, their most regularly involved centre-back in this season’s competition, has also been ruled out.
While Ramos is an obvious replacement for Varane, Nacho Fernandez may be preferred to Alvaro Odriozola at right-back, unless Real retain their 3-5-2 set-up. The fact the Castilians have conceded three times as many goals as Chelsea in this year’s competition (12 compared to four) may also factor in Zidane’s thinking.
Although questions remain over the fitness of the returning players, if truly ready, Mendy and Valverde could raise the potency of a Real squad that at times struggled to cope with the visitors’ pace and power last week.
In Tuesday’s first half, wing-back Marcelo kept tucking inside as a central midfielder, with Nacho sidling over to left-back, but many of Chelsea’s dangerous raids happened down that side once the first line was breached.
Zidane’s half-time reconfiguration of his midfield three closed those gaps but without offering too much of a threat on the visitors’ goal. Although Karim Benzema found the way to beat Edou Mendy with an expert thump, that was the hosts’ only shot on target. None of his fellow attackers has scored since 6 April.
Ferland Mendy’s availability may encourage the coach to revert from 3-5-2 to his ‘fail-safe’ 4-3-3 as against Liverpool, with Valverde in the middle for energy and Hazard let loose on the second anniversary of his last league appearance at the Bridge.
How to watch Chelsea-Real
This match will be covered live by BT Sport in the UK. To find the relevant broadcaster where you are elsewhere, see UEFA’s TV guide.
Chelsea TV’s global available matchday shows – including early team news, exclusive interviews and analysis – are on the 5th Stand app, Facebook Live and the official YouTube channel.
Champions League semi-final regulations
The away goals rule, favouring the side that has scored more goals on the road, applies at the end of normal time this evening. Only in the event of another 1-1 draw would the tie go to extra-time and, if necessary, penalty kicks.
Coaches are permitted to select 12 substitutes and introduce five of them in three different spells (plus half-time) throughout the course of the match. Real have had the benefit of this all season in La Liga.
The Video Assistant Referee system is used in all games and viewing the pitch-side monitor is more prevalent than in the Premier League.
All accumulated yellow cards were cleared at the end of the quarter-finals but a sending-off would mean suspension from the final.
Man in the middle
Referee Daniele Orsato has handled four previous Chelsea matches, including our 2-0 Round of 16 victory at the Bridge against Real’s city rivals, Atletico. The Italian also presided over Real’s 2-1 home loss to Man City last season, showing Ramos the 26th red card of his Los Blancos career for preventing a goalscoring opportunity.
Real’s Swinging Sixties stop-off
A repeat of the result from Real’s only previous appearance at Stamford Bridge would be handy this evening. The occasion was the International Club Charity Cup for the benefit of international Jewish welfare organisations at the peak of ‘Swinging London’ on 22 November 1966.
The opportunity to see how Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris handled the legendary ‘Galloping major’ Ferenc Puskas (‘like an ancient monument being desecrated,’ as Desmond Hackett put it) clearly proved attractive to many and gate receipts of £20,222 were close to a stadium record.
On the pitch, Los Blancos could not cope with Tommy Docherty’s youthful Diamonds and a Tony Hateley header was followed by a drilled John Hollins finish to complete the 2-0 win under floodlights.
Another collectors’ item
Competitive visits to Stamford Bridge by Real have previously been as rare as rocking horse manure, so this matchday programme could become a sought-after memento. As usual, it can be bought online for £3.50 plus postage.
Champions League semi-final second leg results and fixtures
Manchester City 2 Paris Saint Germain 0 (agg 4-1)
Chelsea v Real Madrid 8pm (agg 1-1)