Chelsea v Real Madrid: Blues may edge close contest
Chelsea welcome Real Madrid to Stamford Bridge for the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final showdown on Wednesday night. Mark O'Haire previews the encounter.
Chelsea humbled at home
Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel admitted, "nobody saw it coming" after watching his Blues side humiliated 4-1 by near neighbours Brentford at Stamford Bridge on Saturday. Despite being second-best in the opening 45 minutes, Antonio Rudiger flashed a brilliant 30-yard finish home to give the Champions League holders an undeserved half-time advantage.
However, three goals in 10 second-half minutes totally changed the complexion of the contest before the Bees added a fourth in the closing moments. And Chelsea could have no complaints about the defeat or the embarrassing scoreline - the Blues paid the price for an abject performance that was completely out of character with their recent efforts.
Speaking post-match, Tuchel said: "It was very untypical of us. But we stopped defending. We were not aware of enough of the danger, were sloppy with the defending and got punished. We did not defend like it is needed to in the Premier League and got punished. It is one day off now and on Monday we start again and focus our preparations on Madrid."
Madrid bounce back from Clasico battering
Karim Benzema saved Real Madrid from back-to-back La Liga defeats as Los Blancos clinched a controversial 2-1 win away at Celta Vigo on Saturday. Carlo Ancelotti's side bounced back from their humiliating Clasico loss, but the league leaders required Benzema to score twice from the penalty spot after Madrid were handed three spot kicks in Galicia.
Despite being forced off with a knock in the final minutes of the Balaidos match, defender Eder Militao should be fit in time to face Chelsea in midweek. The Brazilian international has formed a solid centre-half partnership with David Alaba this season and will be joined in the back-four by Ferland Mendy, with the French full-back returning to the side on Saturday.
However, Ancelotti remains a doubt for the trip to the London. The Italian has been laid low after testing positive for Covid-19 and missed the trip to Celta. Nevertheless, the Los Blancos boss has a trusted stand-in if required, with his son Davide Ancelotti ready to take charge of Madrid in midweek having been part of Carlo's coaching staff for nearly 10 years.
Blues firm favourites at the Bridge
Chelsea and Real Madrid crossed swords in the Champions League as recently as last season when the pair met in the semi-finals. The Blues were held to a 1-1 draw in the Bernebeu before beating the Spaniards 2-0 at Stamford Bridge en-route to taking title honours. The Blues are unbeaten in five previous continental clashes with Los Blancos (W3-D2-L0).
Before the Brentford debacle and the international break, Chelsea 2.16 had reeled off six straight victories across all competitions and had suffered a solitary 90-minute loss in 26 (W16-D9-L1), with that sole reverse arriving against Manchester City. Under Thomas Tuchel, the Blues have bagged six wins from seven home Champions League ties (W6-D0-L1).
Real Madrid 3.90 are eight points clear at the top of La Liga yet Los Blancos haven't often appeared as dominant as the league standings suggest. The Spaniards were outclassed in the recent Clasico against Barcelona and appeared to be suffering a similar fate when facing PSG in the previous round of the Champions League before a remarkable turnaround.
Close first leg contest on the cards
Under 2.5 Goals is trading at 1.83 and it's no major surprise to see odds-on quotes considering the circumstances and magnitude of Wednesday night's match-up. Real Madrid offered precious little when first leg underdogs away in Paris during the last round of continental competition and may again opt for pragmatism at Stamford Bridge
However, I'm happy taking a slightly larger price on offer by backing Chelsea Double Chance and Under 2.5 Goals at 2.02 via the Bet Builder. The Blues are bound to react to Saturday's shock loss, were much the better side in last term's tussles, and should find confidence in the way in which PSG dominated their tie with Madrid before capitulating late on.
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