With the aid of diagrams and data, we take a close look at a Champions League encounter that had everyone on the edge of their seats…
That Chelsea played so well and scored freely on our a first-ever visit to the Bernabeu, yet still fell short of turning round the first-leg deficit, is probably a good indicator of why, since the Champions League format started 30 years ago, only one side has ever recovered from losing by two or more goals in their home leg first and gone on to win a knockout tie.Last night the Blues were 10 minutes away from joining the Manchester United side of 2019 who shocked PSG in Paris, but then Rodrygo equalised from Luka Modric’s stunningly incisive pass.However before the game began to turn back Real Madrid’s way, there is no doubt Thomas Tuchel’s side had been good value for our 3-0 lead.
Attack, attack, attack
The stats back up what most watching must have been thinking, that the visiting side from London were dominating.The Blues had 57 per cent of the possession over the 120 minutes and by most indicators of attacking play, were on top.From a total of 90 attacking moves to Real’s 46, there were 28 Chelsea shots (six by Kai Havertz) to 10 from them. Seven of ours were on target to four of theirs. We had to 10 corners compared with the Spaniards’ one and 11 of 26 Chelsea crosses reached a team-mate. Three of Real’s 10 did so.Chelsea on the front foot and in control early on was in evidence for Mason Mount’s opening goal. From Marcos Alonso chesting down an aerial clearance to Mount’s fine finish, there were 29 passes involving every outfielder apart from Kai Havertz.
Committed Chelsea but ruthless Real
It certainly was not a case of adopting the classic away-team mode – soaking up pressure and trying to hit our opponents on the break. There was only one move that was classed as counter-attack in the entire game from either side – that resulting in one of our shots on goal.Importantly, following Tuchel lamenting a lack of our usual commitment in the challenge in the home leg last week, in the Bernabeu we won 77 of the duels to Madrid’s 69, made one more successful tackle than them, and won more than twice as many aerial contests.But despite winning 3-2 on the night, we went out on aggregate when Real hit back from a losing position, and there is no escaping their ruthlessness in converting the chances that came their way over the two games.As well as Chelsea took our goals yesterday, the Expected Goal (xG) value of 2.72 shows we were roughly on par with our three scored, whereas Real with an xG of 1.23 overachieved in scoring twice. It was a similar story to the first leg where they conjured up their three goals from an xG of 1.83 while we scored once with an expected 1.35.
‘We played a fantastic match. We deserved what we had. We scored four goals, we had big chances to score more. We were unlucky. We got beaten by pure individual quality and offensive conversion,’ said Tuchel afterwards, with reference to Marcos Alonso’s disallowed goal.The big chances he noted numbered five in the stats count, four of them missed. Real scored both their big chances.
Two up, sometimes two behind
Tuchel largely based his formation in Spain on the one deployed so effectively in the 6-0 win at Southampton in the previous game, albeit with plenty of fluidity and changes of shape whether in or out of possession.With one change, Reece James rather than Andreas Christensen was asked to be the most direct opponent to Vinicius Junior. James made eight successful tackles, three more than anyone else on the pitch.Toni Rudiger, talking after the game, highlighted the role Ruben Loftus-Cheek, nominally our right wing-back, had in joining Mason Mount in a no.10 role, to exploit space between Real’s most central midfielder Casemiro and their defence.The average position map below shows Mount and Timo Werner in that area, and how Loftus-Cheek was more often upfield compard with Alonso on the other side. It contrasts with the positions at Southampton below it.
The new attacking shape used in the two games with Mount more central behind Werner appears to be benefitting them both. They have three goals apiece from the two outings with Mount claiming two assists and Werner one. That was after a month in which neither scored.Mount now has 20 goals and 21 assists over the past two seasons. In Madrid he also supplied four key passes, as did Alonso.
The win on the night, that sets a new all-time club record of eight for consecutive away wins in all competitions, means Chelsea have only lost once in our past 15 matches against La Liga teams in Spain.However having reached the Champions League quarter-finals, we do not go through to the semi-finals for only the second time in 10 attempts having reached that stage of the competition.