Away from the domestic games, the Champions League is drawing nearer to a close and two big guns will battle it out for a spot in the final.
After beating one English side in the quarter-finals, can Real Madrid do the same to another? Thomas Tuchel also reached the Champions League final last season with PSG. Can he do so once again this season and perhaps go all the way? Only time will tell.
With the fallout of the doomed European Super League still playing on their minds, Real Madrid and Chelsea gear up for the first leg of their Champions League semi-final showdown at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano on Tuesday night.
Los Blancos booked their spot in the final four courtesy of a 3-1 aggregate victory over Liverpool in the quarter-finals, while Chelsea survived a late scare against Porto to beat the Primeira Liga giants 2-1 over two legs.
The hosts go into this game on the back of a disappointing goalless stalemate with Real Betis in La Liga, whereas Chelsea boosted their top-four prospects with a 1-0 win at West Ham United.
Real were far from convincing when topping the Group B table but have predictably stepped up a gear during the knockout rounds. Atalanta were beaten twice in a 4-1 aggregate triumph and Zinedine Zidane’s side then put in a polished performance to defeat Liverpool 3-1 in Madrid. There were a few early scares in the reverse fixture at Anfield, but a disciplined second-half display contributed towards the Reds running out of energy and ideas.
Thomas Tuchel masterminded a 3-0 aggregate triumph over Atletico Madrid and a deserved success versus Porto. After taking the opening encounter 2-0 in Seville, the Blues were edged out 1-0 in the second leg at the same ground, but few would argue they were the better team overall.
However, starlets such as Mason Mount, Kai Havertz, Timo Werner and Christian Pulisic will be put under more pressure here. Real’s midfield trio of Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Casemiro have the experience to control proceedings, while Karim Benzema has scored 58 goals in 109 European games for Real.
Form Guide: Real Madrid
Real Madrid may still be fighting for their lives in the La Liga title race, but we still think a big part of their focus is going on the Champions League right now. Zinedine Zidane knows what it takes to win this competition and continually pours everything he’s got into doing so, which will likely be the case in the next few weeks. They’ve got the squad necessary to get it done and they shouldn’t really fear anyone at this stage.
Real went out there and made a statement against Liverpool with an emphatic 3-1 win in the first leg, to the point where they just had to ride out the storm in the second. Sure, the Reds missed an early chance that could’ve handed them the keys to the comeback castle, but Madrid were solid enough at the back and had the right game plan.
Real Madrid’s La Liga title challenge hit a stumbling block on Saturday as they were held to a goalless draw at home to Real Betis and they will be hoping for a more successful night in front of goal when they host Chelsea on Tuesday.
That disappointing result was Real Madrid’s third goalless draw in four matches and, while their defence can be commended after four consecutive clean sheets, it’s a worrying sign when they’re coming up against a very well-organized Chelsea back-line.
Form Guide: Chelsea
Thomas Tuchel isn’t the finished product as Chelsea manager and nobody is going to sit around pretending like he is, but in equal measure, he’s clearly made this Blues side far smarter than they were before. They just have a real confidence to their play as well as composure, and the big question now is whether or not they have the talent necessary to compete with Real over two legs. The short answer is yes, but the long answer is a bit more complicated.
The Blues picked up a crucial win in their race for a top four berth on Saturday and it was a typical performance from Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea. A 1-0 win away to fellow top four contenders West Ham leaves them three points clear in the Champions League qualification spots, and all this points towards a tight affair on Tuesday.
Chelsea are yet to lose away from home under their new manager despite scoring just 13 goals in their ten competitive away days since he took charge. They have kept seven clean sheets in this run and another one could be on the cards against a Los Blancos side with a newfound penchant for goalless draws.
How the match could go
There’s always a layer of tension in the air heading into a big semi-final and that’s most certainly going to be the case for this first leg. Both teams have shown they’ve got what it takes to produce a mature and accomplished performance but for whatever reason, we just think Real’s experience in these situations will be enough to edge them over the finish line. It’ll still be close, but it may not provide us with the entertainment value we’re all seeking.
Tip: Real Madrid win or draw
Real Madrid have not lost a competitive match since February 17 games ago, but they have won just one of their last four outings. A 0-0 draw with Real Betis on Saturday ended a five-game home winning streak, which they’ll look to correct on Tuesday. Both sides have been rock solid defensively in recent weeks, and we expect a cagey affair on Tuesday. However, considering Real Madrid possesses an experienced crop of players, they should manage to grab a slender win. Bet9ja and Bet365 have 1.30 odds while 1xbet have 1.36.
Under 2.5 Goals
Considering the fact that Real Madrid had three 0-0 matches of their last five in all competitions, while Chelsea has gone under 2.5 total goals in four straight games, betting on under 2.5 total goals seems like a reasonable decision. Furthermore, Chelsea has averaged just 2.2 goals per game in the Champions League this season. Real Madrid is much better in this area with 2.9 goals per match, but they’ve gone under 2.5 total goals in half of their knockout-phase games. Bet9ja have 1.58 odds, Bet365 have 1.61 and 1xbet have 1.67.
Both teams to score: NO
In the event that Chelsea manage to win, we shouldn’t see both sides scoring still. Since the arrival of Thomas Tuchel, Chelsea has been amazing in defence. Under his wing, Chelsea has conceded only one goal in the previous four Champions League games, and he has similar results in England. Meanwhile, Real Madrid have drawn in three of their last five games across all competitions, so the likelihood is for this trend to continue on Tuesday. But in the case that someone wins, we expect the other team to remain quiet. 1xbet have 1.77 odds, Bet365 have 1.80 and Bet9ja have 1.81.
Anytime Goal-scorer (Real Madrid)
Karim Benzema is Real’s man for the big occasion and the veteran striker has 27 goals for the season. The Frenchman showed what he was all about with his fine showing against Liverpool in the semis. He has proven to be more than influential for Los Blancos this term and much of their hopes of progressing will depend on his form on the evening. He is the number one name to score for Real Madrid. Bet365 have 2.30 odds while Bet9ja have 2.55.
The Belgian has struggled with injuries this season but gained fitness just in time to face his former club. Hazard said at the start of the season that it would be his dream to face Chelsea in the Champions League. That wish has come to fruition and we could see a fired up Belgian looking to punish his former beloved club and remind them of what they missed. Value comes with the Belgian as Bet365 are offering 3.40 odds for him to score while Bet9ja have theirs at 4.25.
Anytime Goal-scorer (Chelsea)
Eight goals from midfield is not bad for a midfielder but Mason Mount has been impressive and a whole lot more. Under Frank Lampard and now Thomas Tuchel, he has become a regular starter under both coaches and that tells a lot. He has paid off the faith in him with a number of big game performances this term, including a match-winning goal against Liverpool in the Premier League. He is never afraid to belt one from distance and that leaves him as a credible candidate to get on the score-sheet as well. Backing him to score could be massive, with Bet365 offering 4.75 odds and Bet9ja offering 5.00
Chelsea’s Hakim Ziyech has been directly involved in six goals in seven UEFA Champions League starts in the knockout stage (4 goals, 2 assists), and scored in his first two such appearances against Real Madrid, for Ajax in the 2018-19 Last 16 stage. Should Chelsea choose to go on an attacking front, Ziyech could be a string shout for goal given his intent to push for goals while on the ball. Similar to Mount above, Bet365 are offering 4.75 odds while Bet9ja have it better at 5.50.
Football Lover. All-round junkie of the beautiful game. Could be found watching football most of the time. If not he’s writing about them or making some punditry you don’t agree with. A certain bias for Arsenal and Santos FC.