With Florentino Perez frothing at the mouth about being let down by the 'English' Super League contingent and throwing accusations at one clubs heart never really being in it, the main candidate at the centre of these accusations was Chelsea. Their reticence to get involved after the major announcement would set the scene for what was one of the most short-lived rebellion ventures in sporting history. Aside from the tensions from the higher ups, UEFA also have a vested interest in this tie and would love nothing better than to see further egg on Madrid's face with a loss here to Chelsea.
After a horrid 18 months spell from Lampard, Chelsea are performing really well under Tuchel especially on the defensive front. Chelsea have kept 10 clean sheets in 14 games under Tuchel and have just 2 blemishes on his record, the 5-2 thrashing against West Brom and a 1-0 loss against Porto in the second leg of quarter final. He has also taken Chelsea from mid table to 4th position - they are now considered favourites to finish in the top 4 in Premier League. With a few defensive additions to replace the ageing rear-guard we can see Chelsea fighting for title next season.
Chelsea under Tuchel have played very conservatively and have maintained their defensive structure without giving away any free spaces in final third and with 3-2-4-1/3-4-3 formation they have that 5 man defensive wall along with the 2 midfielders staying close to each other forming a defensive screen in front of that back 5. With so many men behind the ball for Chelsea, it becomes a little crowded for attacking team and forces them to go back and reset or play a long ball over their defence.
Chelsea usually attack from the flank creating 3v2 or even 4v2 situation on the wings. With Chilwell moving forward from the left side Rudiger plays as a false Left Back which creates a very lopsided 4-4-2 formation as we can see in the above image. This pushes opposition players onto sidelines and creates those pockets of spaces in the middle part of the pitch.
Even though Chelsea are defensively very strong, they are not a backs to the wall side. Controlling possession is key for Tuchel gameplay and like his mentor Pep, he uses this as a way to protect the team from facing many shots and also as a method to pick and chose when to attack. Chelsea players will hold onto the ball. often moving it side ways and wait for an opportunity to open up to quickly pounce on any half spaces.
After consecutively winning the UCL 3 years in a row (2016-18), the writing was on the wall for this Madrid era and the reign of Zinedine Zidane. Ronaldo left to join Juventus and BBC was no more. As predicted, Real struggled without their GOAT and an ageing infrastructure was found wanting against Ajax and Manchester City in the Round of 16 in the following years.
This season seemed to be following a similar path - both domestically and on the continent, but Zidane once again managed to turn things around with his unique brand of tactical pragmatism. A lot of emphasis was given to the defensive department and Madrid now find themselves in the same situation as last year with just 2 points behind leaders and their city rivals Atletico Madrid on the domestic front. Likewise they were able to 'out-defend' Liverpool in the quarter finals, and this defensive foundation enabled them to pierce Liverpool in a series of blazing counter attacks.
As aforementioned Real has put a lot of emphasis on defending well and similar to Chelsea, Real also like to maintain their defensive structure. We have seen at times when the opposition are overwhelming, Real tend to shift to a very defensive 6-4-0 and form a narrow block which forces opposition to spread the play to wings. With players like Ramos, Varane and Casemiro in defence they can clear any crosses coming into the box and get that upper edge using their superior physicality. They are very difficult to break down.
At times Real look happy trying to just sit back and defend while the opposition has majority of the ball. While moving forward Real likes to attack from the left flank with Ferland Mendy moving up to join Vinicius Jr. during the attack. A lot depends on Kroos and whether the team pressure him and not let him get free time on the ball cause he’s the one who dictates a lot of game for Real. He is the one link between defenders and forward players and has the ability to play those long balls to the forward runners.
In this game with Mendy missing, not to mention Vasquez. Real's ability to counter attack as a team is negated significantly. The wingers will need to go it alone more often and Benzema will also need to create chances for himself out of nothing more often. On the flip side, Real should be even harder to break down but will they end up inviting too much pressure? or will their tried and tested midfield be instructed to grab a hold of the game and let it be played on their terms.
This is the one I am looking forward to. Liverpool tried to nullify Kroos' presence by playing Keita who can use his physical presence to try and suppress Kroos. He failed to do so and was replaced by Thiago after 35 minutes and Real Madrid ran away to win 3-1. It will be interesting to see whether Tuchel will tell Kante to move a little forward and try to keep Kroos in check or stick with Jorginho (who I think will play against Real) to provide that defensive screening to defenders. We can say this is a battle of midfield with Jorginho also keeping tabs on Modric who will look to find those pockets of spaces in between defence and midfield.
Tuchel might start with Azpi as the Right Wing Back against Real to nullify Real’s threat from the left side but Reece James is a good option considering his pace and stamina he has to run up and down the pitch for the whole 90 minutes. With him pushing forward to support during attacking phases, this could be key in distorting Real’s attacking game. However pushing a little hard would result in him leaving spaces behind and get caught out of possession. Real would have a field day if James is not careful about his defensive positioning.
This battle would be very important for Chelsea who would be looking to get that crucial away goal as Mount has been the main man going forward for Chelsea. Mount fills the role of a creator in this Chelsea team and especially with absence of Kovacic his role becomes more important. I have picked Casemiro to nullify this threat cause Real would not want Militao or Varane getting out of possession to challenge Mount and leaving spaces behind for Werner, Ziyech/Havertz or Pulisic to run into. Maybe Zidane can say Casemiro to man mark Mount during the game and try to cut all the passing lanes leading to Mount.
It is a tough one to call at the moment. Both teams like to play it safe and attack when they feel comfortable in the game so I don’t expect many goals in this one. However this would be decided by whoever is more comfortable while going forward and the team that makes the first move would probably win this one. For prediction purposes I would say Real have the home advantage but Chelsea are a little bit ahead right now, I predict Real to win this one although not by a big margin, probably 1-0 or it can be a 1-1 draw. Any one out of those two result looks likely for me.
Real Madrid (4-3-3) : Courtois; Carvajal, Varane, Militao, F. Mendy; Casemiro, Kroos, Modric; Vinicius Jr, Benzema, Asensio.
Chelsea (3-4-2-1 / 3-4-3) : E. Mendy; Azpilicueta, Silva, Rudiger; James, Kante, Jorginho, Chilwell; Mount, Werner, Havertz.