For the third year in a row, the defending champions, Real Madrid, will play Chelsea in the Champions League. Chelsea edged the Spanish side in 2020 while Madrid defeated Chelsea in style last season; each would eventually go on to win the trophy.
Real Madrid Keys to Victory
Real Madrid hasn’t been performing well in La Liga this season, losing five games compared to last season’s four and currently 13 points behind first-place Barcelona. Nonetheless, Los Blancos always come out in the Champions League to prove why they are the kings of Europe.
This campaign, Madrid has scored 21 Champions League goals, with an xG of 17.9 and produced 576.9 accurate passes per match. Vinícius Júnior has been Real’s top scorer this season, with six goals in the Champions League, and producing 35 goals and assists in all Spanish competitions.
Karim Benzema has been returning to form after a dip coming back from the World Cup break, scoring back-to-back hat tricks against Valladolid and Barcelona and scoring 18 goals with four assists in 2023. He currently has three goals in Champions League play, and he will look to add another hat trick against Chelsea on Wednesday.
Los Blancos have won three of their last five games and outscored their opponents 14-5. They enter the match with a sour taste in their mouths after losing to Villarreal and a Samu Chukwueze masterclass over the weekend.
The key to winning this tie will be to respect Chelsea, even though they are in poor form. They are still a big club, and it would be so Chelsea to beat Real Madrid or even win the trophy. Playing Toni Kroos and Luka Modric to control the midfield will be crucial to distributing the ball to Benzema and Vinicius, and perhaps trying out Eduardo Camavinga at fullback after his impressive display against Barca.
The defense will also have to step up for Los Blancos. They have conceded eight goals compared to Chelsea’s five, managing to obtain only three clean sheets so far.
Chelsea Keys to Victory
It seems rather impossible to see Chelsea emerge victorious against Real Madrid based on the struggles they are going through.
The Blues currently sit eleventh in the Premier League and have only scored 29 league goals. To compare, Manchester City’s Erling Haaland, alone, has scored 30 goals this campaign. They are scoreless in their last three matches and enter this tie after losing 1-0 to Wolves, with a banger from Matheus Nunes.
In the Champions League this season, Chelsea has scored 12 goals, with an xG of 13.9. Kai Havertz has been in poor form, only scoring seven goals in the Prem and two in the Champions League.
It seems as if Chelsea is unable to work together as a cohesive unit due to so many players coming in, and a squad depth so big that you can create three different starting lineups. To add to Chelsea’s woes, Franks Lampard will be managing the Blues after the sacking of Graham Potter.
The key to victory for this Chelsea side will be to protect the net and hit Madrid on the counter. They have three clean sheets and only conceded five goals in eight Champions League games. And with the current lack of goal joy this season it would be unwise to go attacking a Madrid team that is known for hard and fast counters.
It would be in Chelsea’s best interest to escape the Bernabeu on Wednesday with a draw and try to win it in Stamford Bridge next week in front of a home crowd.
What to Expect
Los Blancos blew by Liverpool in the round of 16, winning 5-2 at Anfield while Chelsea has drawn 0-0 against the Reds for four consecutive games now. And with Real Madrid’s Liga title hopes gone, their full focus is on the Champions League and Copa Del Rey.
On paper, Real Madrid should cruise into the semis against this Chelsea team. The Spanish side is better all around, with a stronger midfield and a dynamic duo, that together, have 66 combined goals and assists.
But if the Blues manage to snag a draw away from home, this tie will get interesting going into next week’s return leg.