The world is still a little bit away from FIFA World Cup betting, but the Champions League is as thrilling of an alternative as there is in sports.
Chelsea and Real Madrid are set to meet Wednesday in the quarterfinal of the Champions League. The two-leg affair is a rematch of last year’s semi-final, in which Chelsea, the eventual victors in the competition, won 3-1 on aggregate.
Although both teams look relatively the same on the surface as they did last year, they are in entirely different positions. So, the question that everyone is wondering is this: what is going to happen when the English giants meet the home of the Galacticos?
Here is everything you need to know about Wednesday’s Champions League battle.
Chelsea in Tumultuous Times
Chelsea is going through a well-publicized divorce in ownership because of Roman Abramovich’s ties to Vladimir Putin; the English government sanctioned the club’s owner and ultimately forced the sale of the club after Russia invaded Ukraine, which had many ramifications. Chelsea had to travel by bus instead of plane due to their inability to receive funding from the owner, they could not sell tickets to games, and many sponsors backed out of deals.
As it relates to the game, Chelsea had been in decent form before the recent international period, though their return match— a 1-4 loss to Brentford in the English Premier League— could not have gone any worse. An Antonio Rudiger wonder strike was outdone by four goals from the unsuspecting challengers, all in the second half. The Blues looked totally off the pace and unprepared for a regular weekend match, much less one against the presumptive La Liga champions.
If Chelsea has anything going for it, it is that it is built to be a cup team; the Blues do not concede many goals and have enough pace, discipline, and desire to play against any team, although they will need to update their resume in a couple of days.
Real Madrid Primed to Strike
Real Madrid is the winningest side in the history of the Champions League. They were thoroughly outplayed in the second leg of last year’s tie against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, but they will be more prepared this time.
Striker Karim Benzema is in arguably the best form of any attacker in the entire world, and his teammate and partner upfront, Vinicius Junior, is not far off. The Brazilian winger has flair and ridiculous speed that allow him to create chances from nothing, and if they switch him to the right side, he will be able to go against the slow and defensively weak Marcos Alonso.
Real Madrid recovered with a 2-1 victory after losing 4-0 to Barcelona in the previous match, and they will have most of their important players fit for the match. David Alaba is a newcomer in the matchup and could make a difference, as an injured Sergio Ramos was unable to contain the Blues’ attack when the two sides met last year.
The Chelsea-Real Madrid match will likely be won in the middle of the park; Chelsea deploys a double-pivot with what figures to be N’Golo Kante and one of Jorginho or Mateo Kovacic, while Madrid will likely play Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, and Casemiro. Kante and Kovacic play with more energy and drive than their Spanish counterparts, although they are outnumbered— all the Madrid trio has to do is keep a hold of the ball, and they will be winning the battle.
Both teams like to attack with width, although Madrid does this more with speed and flair from its wingers, while the Blue have their wing-backs travel up and down the flanks to send in crosses and provide overlaps. Chelsea could run into trouble if they are caught in a counterattack and have their wing-backs still in the attacking third, leaving their center-backs isolated against Madrid’s front three.
Real Madrid also has the most prolific goal-scorer in the match (Benzema) which will allow them to always remain in contention, even if things are not going their way. The French national snagged a goal in the first leg of last year’s matchup, a 1-1 draw, from nothing at all, which will remain clear in the head of Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel.
Both teams can be very hit or miss, but if push comes to shove, Chelsea should have a slight advantage on their home territory.