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Preserving leads unsettles the Bernabéu

Coming away from London with a resounding 1-3 advantage was a strange feeling, I wouldn’t say an uncomfortable one because it isn’t, but I do detect a certain unease. Real Madrid have become so used to bouncing back after losing the first leg that protecting a lead at home feels strange. It wasn’t that long ago when Madrid was on the cusp of being eliminated by Juventus at the quarter final stage. They had won 0-3 in Turin but found themselves 0-3 down at the Bernabéu and only made it through, agonisingly, after a penalty was awarded for a foul on Lucas Vázquez late into stoppage time. And that is not the only example of a result from the first leg being turned on its head in the return leg, but probably one of the most breathtaking in showing how overconfidence can prove fatal.

From what he said in Monday’s press conference, Tüchel has practically give the tie up as over, considering what happened at Stamford Bridge. But it was more likely a wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing tactic to play down Chelsea’s chances while motivating his players, who thumped Southampton 0-6 at the weekend. So they will be going into the game with spirits high and with nothing to lose (whatever they lost, they lost in the first leg) but with everything to win. Azpilicueta is back, having recovered from Covid-19. But one player who didn’t make the trip was Lukaku, who is either injured or angry with the coach, I don’t know. I’m relieved about that, because he’s a beast of a player. He looked brawny and menacing during the minutes he played in the first leg.

But even without Lukaku, Tüchel has a formidable attack: Havertz, Werner, Ziyech, Pulisic… We’ll have to wait and see who he starts with (Havertz, definitely), - all of them are great players, as are the ones who will be supplying them tonight. Among them, one of our homegrown assets - Marcos Alonso, the grandson of a football legend who won the first five European Cups. As for Madrid, they will be without Militão who is suspended which is a shame. But apart from him, everyone else is fit - and Modric and Kroos fully rested. In short, in spite of the 1-3 advantage, we will have a game on our hands. It will be a similar story in Munich, where Villarreal have travelled with a one-goal lead from their brillant first leg. The best of luck to both of them.