Before last year’s Champions League semifinal meeting, we said that occasions don’t get much bigger on the European stage than a showdown with Real Madrid, and while we’re meeting a round earlier this year, that’s still very much true — especially as now we’ll get to have fans in the stadiums as well, unlike last year’s pandemic era closed-doors games.
The stakes are just as high, with both teams coming off of stinging recent defeats: 0-4 at home to Barca for them two weeks ago, 1-4 at home to Brentford for us last weekend. Focus and attention may have been a bit divided, especially as neither team’s domestic league position is particularly under threat at the moment (them in first in La Liga, us in third in the Premier League).
All eyes on this.
Date / Time: Wednesday, April 6, 2022, 20.00 BST; 3pm EDT; 12:30am IST (next day)
Venue: Stamford Bridge, SW6
Referee: Clément Turpin (on pitch); Jérôme Brisard (VAR) — Turpin was in charge of last year’s quarterfinal second leg (0-1 at home to Porto) and the last 16 first leg the year before (0-3 at home to Bayern). Let’s at least try to score goal a this time!
Forecast: Breezy, possible showers
On TV: BT Sport 2 (UK); CBS, Univision, TUDN (USA); Sony TEN 2 (India); SuperSport Football Plus, Canal+ Sport 3 (NGA); elsewhere
Streaming: BT Sport Live (UK); Paramount+, Univision Now, TUDNxtra (USA); Sony LIV (India); DStv Now (NGA)
Chelsea team news: Chelsea pretty much have a clean bill of health, except for Ben Chilwell, who’s out for the season. Callum Hudson-Odoi is possibly still doubtful after an Achilles problem, but everyone else should be fully available, including Christian Pulisic, who got the weekend off after some heroics for the USMNT over the international break.
The loss to Brentford was our first loss at the Bridge since September. It echoed last year’s shocking 2-5 home defeat to relegation-bound West Brom, immediately before a quarterfinal first leg 2-0 victory over FC Porto. That’s certainly a good parallel to follow, though we’ll have to hope for more than just cosmic benevolence to progress in the competition.
Tuchel called for a physical, intense, focused effort, but hopefully we’ll approach things on the front foot, just like we did throughout last year’s winning campaign.
Real Madrid team news: Real will certainly want to make up last year’s disappointment, with former Chelsea head coach Carlo Ancelotti instead of Zinedine Zidane now in charge (again) these days — though he may not be physically at the game as he’s still in COVID-19 protocol, waiting to test negative, and did not travel with the rest of the team.
Real will also be without three fringe players in striker Luka Jović, midfielder Isco, and a certain Eden Hazard, who’s recently underwent yet another operation, this one a follow-up to a previous ankle surgery. He will miss the second leg as well.
Having won the league just twice in the last decade, Madrid have practically wrapped up this year’s La Liga title already with 12-point lead heading into the final 8-9 games. Young Vinícius Júnior has emerged as the real deal in attack, while the ageless Karim Benzema continues to pour in the goals. He’s matched his age in number of goals, 34, setting a new career high in the process. At the back, Éder Militão just keeps getting better, while the the veteran midfield trio of Luka Modrić, Toni Kroos, and Casemiro remain as fantastic as ever. And yes, Snakey McSnakerson’s still between the sticksssss.
View from the enemy: Managing Madrid
Previously: This will be our third meeting in the last 12 months, doubling the number of competitive meetings we’ve ever had prior to 2021. We’ve still yet to lose to them, with three wins and two draws on our side of the ledger. Last year’s home leg, which was then the second leg, was one a fantastically well played game, highlighted by N’Golo Kanté’s dominance and another big-game performance from Pulisic.