I might as well just steal my intro from last year’s second leg.
Monaco. Napoli. PSG. Real Madrid.
2004. 2012. 2014. 2022.
Semifinals. Round of 16. Quarterfinals. Quarterfinals.
Ranieri. Di Matteo. Mourinho. Tuchel.
Lampard. Ivanović. Ba. Werner.
A kiss of the ring. A knee slide. A pile on. Wheeling away in disbelief.
Two-goal first leg deficits: overturned. Two of the four: won.
For the fourth time in our Champions League history, we stare down a two-goal deficit heading into a knockout round second leg (2-0 this time). In all four of the previous occasions, we brought it back to at least temporarily level the tie. We couldn’t quite go on to complete the job against Monaco and against Real Madrid last year, which was the only one that was an away attempt.
We may not have any chance today. We may not even have a prayer. But that expectation of never-say-die, that legacy of doing the impossible, that football heritage, if you will, of some of the greatest European nights, that must be somehow upheld even in this most uncharacteristic of seasons.
Date / Time: Tuesday, April 18, 2023, 20.00 BST; 3pm EDT; 12:30am IST (next day)
Venue: Stamford Bridge, SW6
Referee: Daniele Orsato (on pitch); Massimiliano Irrati (VAR) — Orsato’s last game for us was a 2-0 win against Real Madrid at the Bridge (the second leg of the 2021 semifinals)
Forecast: Breezy, cool
On TV: BT Sport 1 (UK); Univision, TUDN (USA); Sony TEN 2 (India); SuperSport Football Plus (NGA); elsewhere
Streaming: BT Sport Live (UK); Univision Now, Paramount+ (USA); Sony LIV (India); DStv Now (NGA)
Chelsea team news: Chelsea broke a six-hour scoreless streak on Saturday, but we could not finagle a win for the sixth straight match. But form doesn’t necessarily matter in cup or knockout games, and we must hope to become the latest shining example of that cliché.
Todd Boehly himself has even tried to fire up a troops, but how history will view his dressing room outburst will depend entirely on the outcome of this game. Our former CEO Trevor Birch once told the players (including Frank Lampard) in 2003 that the club will go bankrupt if we fail to beat Liverpool on the final day. No pressure then, lads!
Twenty years on, the stakes are probably not quite that high. But we have a chance to write a different ending still to this tragic first season of the Post-Abramovich Era. That has to count for something, and I mean that in a very real sense for all involved.
Kalidou Koulibaly and Armando Broja are the only two players on the injured list at the moment, while Ben Chilwell is suspended.
Real Madrid team news: Carlo Ancelotti once again rotated his squad a fair bit over the weekend, grinding out a 2-0 win away against Cádiz, but more importantly resting Vinicius Junior, David Alaba, Dani Carvajal, Luka Modrić (for all but the final ten minutes), and Toni Kroos. Eduardo Camavinga played only a quarter of the game. Karim Benzema did play the full-90, but he could probably score against us in his sleep so that won’t matter too much.
Ferland Mendy remains the only notable injury absentee for the defending European champions, who maybe will be nice enough to give us a few minutes of Eden Hazard action, too. Feels like we’ve lived two lifetimes since he left four years ago!
View from the enemy: Managing Madrid
Previously: Not much worth reliving from the recent past, but since it might be a while before we’re back in the Champions League, let’s relive our greatest night at Stamford Bridge.