Chelsea - Real Madrid: possible starting line-ups for the Champions League
Chelsea host Real Madrid at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday as Thomas Tuchel and Zinedine Zidane seek to reach the Champions League final in Istanbul.
Thomas Tuchel and Zinedine Zidane will pit their tactical wits against each other this evening at Stamford Bridge as Chelsea host Real Madrid in the second leg of their Champions League semi-final. The prize for the winner is a match-up in Istanbul against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City after the former Barcelona manager, who led the Azulgrana to two triumphs in Europe’s elite club competition, ended the hopes of PSG in a 4-1 aggregate victory.
The tie is poised at 1-1 after the first leg, when a Karim Benzema goal cancelled out Christian Pulisic’s opener for the visitors. Tuchel said after the game that Chelsea missed an opportunity to score a second and place Madrid on the ropes and the German schemer had a point as the Premier League side were superior in the first half and only Thibaut Courtois prevented a sticky situation this evening for Zidane’s European behemoth. However, the Frenchman will be able to field a more experienced defence in Stamford Bridge.
Sergio Ramos, Ferland Mendy and Fede Valverde are all available, the latter after returning a negative PCR test after two weeks out of the picture. Zidane rested Luka Modric and Toni Kroos against Osasuna and is likely to play his usual midfield in London despite the return of the box-to-box Uruguayan.
Zidane’s shape the big incognito
With Dani Carvajal and Lucas Vázquez both out for the rest of the season the only real question is how Zidane will shore up the right-hand side. Three Castilla players – left back Miguel Gutiérrez, midfielder Antonio Blanco and winger Sergio Arribas – have been called up for the trip. Álvaro Odriozola is the obvious choice to start at right back although Nacho is always an option across the defensive line and is free to fill in where needed with Éder Militão starting alongside Ramos in the absence of Raphaël Varane. Given the importance of the game, Zidane may well elect to lean on the experience offered by Nacho, who is also a underrated threat at the other end of the pitch.
Zidane used a three-man defence in the return leg and against Barcelona in the Clásico, which would require Marcelo and Odriozola to act as wing backs, but the Madrid boss may opt to revert to his tried and tested 4-3-3 for this evening’s game. The versatile Valverde may be deployed in a more attacking role with Vinicius and Rodrygo on the bench as impact subs.
Real Madrid predicted starting XI against Chelsea
Courtois; Nacho, Militão, Ramos, Mendy; Modric, Casemiro, Kroos; Asensio, Benzema, Hazard.
No changes for Tuchel’s Chelsea
Mateo Kovacic is unavailable against his former club but otherwise Tuchel has few fitness concerns going into the game. That could mean an unchanged Chelsea side at Stamford Bridge with a three-man defence and wing backs in Ben Chilwell and César Azpilicueta. Pulisic and Tino Werner will lead the line with support from Mason Mount in an advanced midfield role, but the form of Kai Havertz, who scored twice in the win over Fulham at the weekend, will give Tuchel some food for thought.
Chelsea predicted starting XI against Real Madrid
Mendy; Christensen, Thiago Silva, Rüdiger; Azpilicueta, Kanté, Jorginho, Chilwell, Mount, Pulisic, Werner.