UCL semi-final kickoff time is 8 PM
Chelsea is set to host Real Madrid in only the 5th European meeting of both giants of European football. It’s important to note that Chelsea has never lost to Real Madrid in Europe, winning 2 of the previous 4 encounters, including the 1998 European Super Cup final when a late Gustavo Poyet goal sealed it for the Blues.kicko
So why is everyone overlooking Chelsea (everyone except their fans) and tipping Real Madrid instead to progress into the final to face Manchester City who put up a football masterclass to dump PSG out of the competition last night? There are a number of reasons for this chief among them being wishful thinking.
Nobody really likes Chelsea except Chelsea fans. And these fans, alleged to be very loud and mostly uncouth, are the exact reasons why nobody else likes their club and don’t want to see them in the final.
While Chelsea spent the better part of the last 5 years struggling to build a team and winning 3 trophies, Real Madrid spent the same time dominating in the league and in Europe with 12 trophies, 3 of those being the Champions League itself. So in a way, Chelsea seems like the rookie in the cup-winning business while Real Madrid are simply the first class professionals.
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Real Madrid have won their last three semi-final fixtures (the oldest as recently as 2016) and have gone on to win the final all 3 times. Chelsea, on the other hand, haven’t been that successful, having lost 2 of their last 4 UCL semi-final ties (dating as far back as 2004). In essence, Real Madrid have been in these kinds of situations more recently, and have proven they know how to get the job done.
But then, all these records are usually made to be broken and they eventually do get broken. Chelsea under Tuchel are playing like a team capable of breaking anything that is put in front of them. Their defence is almost impregnable, the midfield is a well-oiled machine, they still struggle in attack but the chances created are not few and more often than not they get the lone goal or two that gets the job done.
Real Madrid was very lucky to get a draw at home. Lucky that Chelsea (read Timo Werner) couldn’t capitalize on their early flurry to secure more than a goal, lucky that their only real chance fell to their only real goalscorer, Benzema who managed to make that difficult goal look easy with their only attempt on target. If they, like many others, were looking past Chelsea before that first leg, I assure you they aren’t anymore. It’s good news that players like Ramos, Mendy, and Valverde have returned from injury but diffusing the threat which Chelsea poses goes beyond the caliber of players at Madrid’s disposal. It is about a system. To counter Tuchel’s system, you need to produce a system that is simply superior. A system that checks his every move and keeps battering that stubborn defence until it cracks. Either that or finding a way to reduce them to 10-men which worked exceedingly well for West Brom. So far, I haven’t seen the side that convincingly solved the Chelsea problem.
But if anybody could solve the Chelsea problem, it has to be Real Madrid, no? That’s one thing everybody agrees upon which is exactly why everyone would be looking forward to that game tonight. Tactically, I think Tuchel’s men are the better side. Having the away advantage would also do a lot of good to their morale as they just need to get the basics right, not make errors near their goal and generally frustrate Madrid. But Madrid has the experience and the caliber of players to deliver killer blows if they could circumvent Chelsea’s system. And if Madrid gets on the scoresheet first, everything changes.