Analysis

The Debrief: Kante thrives and Kai flies high as Blues head for Istanbul

Kante thrives and Havertz flies high as Blues head for Istanbul | The Debrief Extra

We pick out the key statistics to highlight some of the main talking points from a memorable European night that saw Chelsea score twice and reach a third Champions League final…

Goals from Timo Werner and Mason Mount secured a 3-1 aggregate victory for the Blues over Real Madrid and sent us to Istanbul in emphatic fashion.

N’Golo the great

N’Golo Kante has been at his very best in recent weeks as the Blues push on for major silverware on two fronts at home and abroad. In the first leg in Madrid, the Frenchman was a significant attacking threat when turning over possession and bursting forward with those driving, purposeful runs into space, helping to create numerous opportunities.

While the return in west London was a slightly different contest as Real dominated with 64 per cent of the ball, Kante was key in different ways. He roamed down the inside-right channel and played a crucial role in Timo Werner’s opening goal, retrieving the ball high up and then exchanging passes with the German before threading through his countryman Kai Havertz to hit the crossbar. Werner was on hand to nod in the rebound and make it 2-1 on aggregate.

That was one of three big chances Kante created in the game, while he could have had a goal himself when charging forward on the counter-attack in the second half, though Thibaut Courtois stood in his way. He did play a part in finishing the tie off late on, dancing forward to tee up Christian Pulisic before the American delivered for Mason Mount to convert.

In a defensive sense, our number seven was equally important, cleverly reading the game as the visitors moved the ball from side to side and then jumping in at the perfect time to make tackles and interceptions. Between him and Jorginho, they made 11 interceptions in the game, more than the entire Madrid side put together.

Kante has two Premier League titles and a World Cup to his name but has never tasted Champions League glory. In this form, he could be a decisive factor in the final.

Flying Kai

The young German may not have scored, even though he did hit the crossbar twice, but his influence was evident throughout this semi-final second leg. He had the most shots of any player on the field, while his total of 53 touches in the game was bettered only by Ben Chilwell of his Blues team-mates.

There were also a joint game-high three dribbles, three aerial duels won and an 86 per cent pass completion rate that contributed to an exceptional overall performance leading the line up top.

There is nothing false about Havertz’s impact as a central striker, though his presence does confuse central defenders, who don’t know whether to follow his drifting movements or pass him on to the midfielders. The result is often time and space for the 21-year-old in dangerous attacking pockets, while the likes of Werner, Mount, Kante and the wing-backs can occupy the forward areas he vacates

Magnificent Mendy

A goalkeeper might not be too busy in a semi-final but his job is to make a difference when those critical moments come along and Edouard Mendy was exceptional in making big saves at big times.

His most important came moments before Werner opened the scoring as he dived at full stretch to push away Karim Benzema’s powerful strike from the edge of the box. That was one of his five saves in total, while his distribution was also strong with an 87 per cent pass completion rate.

The Senegalese stopper now has eight clean sheets in 11 Champions League matches this season, the most in a single campaign for an English team in the competition’s history.

Tuchel takes them all on

No manager has previously reached the Champions League/European Cup final in successive seasons with different clubs as Thomas Tuchel looks to go one better than last year’s runners-up finish with Paris Saint-Germain.

Tuchel has now beaten Zinedine Zidane, Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp, Jose Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti and Diego Simeone (twice), all without conceding a single goal in those seven matches. 

He is now six games away from overseeing one of the greatest seasons in Chelsea history.

MORE FROM CHELSEA