Chelsea vs Real Madrid | Wednesday 6th April 2022, 20:00 | BT Sport
Two of European footballs heavyweights meet in what the bookies have priced up as the most evenly matched of the UEFA Champions League Quarter Finals but neither hosts Chelsea nor their visitors Real Madrid come in to this one off the back of ideal preparation.
The Stamford Bridge outfit's off-field issues have of course been well documented, but amidst the chaos they made serene progress on the pitch, winning six consecutive matches, including home and away victories over Lille in the last round of this competition compiling an unbeaten run of 14 games stretching back to the middle of January – until last Saturday.
Despite taking the lead against Brentford through a 40-yard crackerjack of a strike from Antonio Rudiger, the European Champions were soon being taunted by the travelling fans celebrating an incredible come from behind 4-1 victory against their west London rivals.
Thomas Tuchel, who has drawn widespread praise for the way he has impeccably represented his club since the sanctions were announced, showed some signs of the pressure building when after the game he blamed a lack of maturity in defence, international travel and even the good old English weather for his side capitulating against the struggling Bees – who he claimed made the most of the “10 minutes we gave them”.
Interestingly, Chelsea were thrashed at home to another relegation-threatened side almost a year ago to the day, as West Brom beat them 5-2 on April 3 in 2021, with that shock defeat, like this one, coming after the March international break, an embarrassment they responded to in style by traveling to the neutral location of Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán to impressively beat Porto 2-0 – they will certainly hope history can repeat itself here on home soil.
For their part, I watched Real Madrid seemingly forget how to play football in their last game prior to the international break, being dominated by a rampant Barcelona side for whom Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored twice as the La Liga leaders were thrashed 4-0 in El Clasico at their own Bernabeu.
Los Blancos looked lost without Karim Benzema, who was missing through a calf injury, and were lucky their first home defeat of the season wasn’t by an even wider margin.
Following the two-week hiatus to lick their wounds and with a fit again Benzema restored to the starting eleven, Carlo Ancelotti’s side bounced back with a 2-1 win at Celta Vigo, the French international striker grabbing both goals, but with both coming from the spot as he converted two of the three penalty kicks incredibly awarded to his side.
Until new ownership is confirmed in SW6, questions will continually be asked if the uncertainty at the club is starting to impact matters on the pitch – this game will certainly be a good gauge of that, especially as we can take a good read from the fact these two sides met at the semi-final stage of this competition last year.
Chelsea produced an assured performance as they secured a draw and a crucial away goal, (back when there was such a thing) in the first leg 12 months ago, being the superior side on the night in a game they probably felt they should have won.
The second leg saw an even more impressive performance, with the home side locking up any creativity from the Spanish giants, whilst keeping talisman Benzema off the scoresheet, and had it not been for their own wastefulness in front of goal the margin of victory would have been far greater than the final 2-0 score line.
I am expecting a similar pattern to form in the 2022 renewal, with Madrid already showcasing their defensive template in the previous round in Paris – we should see that dusted off and replicated again here in London with their veteran Italian manager no doubt happy to take a 0-0 or even one goal deficit back with him to the Spanish capital.
Labelled negative after that first leg showing, we shouldn’t let the fact the thirteen-times winners of the Champions League/European Cup progressed at the expense of the Parisians mask the fact the outcome was unjust and they were dominated for long periods – with only a trademark PSG capitulation handing the initiative over to that man Benzema again as he fired a 17-minute hat-trick including two goals in 12 astonishing seconds!
A quick look at the expected goals stats on FBref demonstrate just what a woeful display Madrid put up at the Parc des Princes as they sought to cling on to a stalemate – registering just 0.1 xG compared to the home sides 2.6, having to wait until Kylian Mbappe’s 94th minute only goal of the game for some deserved reward.
The semi-final at the Bridge last season produced similar data, using the same source we can see the visitors only put-up marginally better numbers, this time registering a pitiful 0.3 compared to Chelsea’s 2.9.
With their opponents over-reliance on veterans Benzema and Modric this looks like a fantastic opportunity for Thomas Tuchel to further improve his phenomenal cup record since arriving in England and secure a decisive first leg advantage.
The German coach has of course already won this competition with the Blues last season, has appeared in both FA & League Cup finals as well as winning the FIFA Club World Cup in February and having another FA Cup semi-final to look forward to – a stunning body of work for someone who has been in the job little more than 14 months.
The temptation is to be a little clever here and take some caution of Chelsea DNB or similar with under goals – but the price for just a Chelsea win looks good enough to me to keep it simple so in that case I am happy to put that forward at a best priced 11/10 with Betfair.
For my second and final bet I will keep it brief, as there is not much that need to be said about the two players involved!
We should expect a competitive game under the lights in a fixture that produced seven yellow cards last season and although we are not blessed with Daniele Orsato for this tie, Danny Makkelie flashed six yellows in the first leg last campaign and I feel there is scope for Clement Turpin to reach similar numbers.
The French official took charge of Chelsea’s second leg clash with Porto last term and showed five cards, and the previous year was the man in the middle as they hosted Bayern Munich, booking Jorginho and sending off Marcus Alonso – both of whom we should expect to feature here.
On the last occasion the 39-year-old from Oullins took charge of a Real Madrid game he handed out seven yellow cards as they hosted Inter Milan, with the home side picking the majority of them.
Booking magnet Casemiro was one of the names in the book that day and he will once again likely take his place in the Madrid engine room having missed the win over PSG, because of suspension due to collecting three cautions in the competition.
Chelsea’s 2-0 win last year saw the first card produced after just 14 minutes – and was shown in the direction of that man Jorginho again.
So, therefore for a small secondary bet to the main Chelsea win selection, I am putting both Casemiro and Jorginho together in a player to be carded double via Bet 365’s Bet Builder at odds of 7/1.