In the most exciting Champions League quarterfinals matchup, Chelsea hosted Real Madrid at Stamford Bridge. While many expected a tight game, two goals by the midway point of the first half by Karim Benzema turned the matchup upside down. While Chelsea pulled one back through Kai Havertz, Benzema capitalized on an Eduard Mendy mistake to put Real Madrid 3-1 up. That is the way it ended and now Real Madrid has a huge chance to progress further in the competition. Here are three reasons why Real Madrid will pass Chelsea and progress to the Champions League semifinal.
Reasons why Real Madrid are going through against Chelsea
They have a huge lead
Obviously, this is the first and biggest reason. Winning by two goals away from home is usually insurance enough in the Champions League to progress further. Now that the away goal rule is not in place anymore, it could be easier for Chelsea to have a chance. However, they will be playing Real Madrid and when it comes to this competition, Real Madrid is absolute kings. They have won it 13 times in the past, including the only time that the same club has won it back to back since the rebranding of the Champions League in 1992. That team was very different from the one present today, but there are still players in the roster that were integral to that run of the Spanish club.
When it comes to this lead specifically, Real Madrid already has experience of defending this margin of victory in a return leg. Last season, Madrid played Liverpool and won with the same result in the first leg. Then, in the second leg at Anfield, Real Madrid set up their tactics perfectly, allowing Liverpool to push on and lose energy early, losing the ability of their Gegenpress in the second half. That was with Zinedine Zidane at the helm, and now they have an even better tactician in Carlo Ancelotti. One great thing about having this lead is being able to set up a game plan that will include giving up control of the game, but still retaining stability, something Real Madrid has already shown in the first leg versus PSG and the second half of their game versus Chelsea.
It is their competition
As it was briefly mentioned above, Real Madrid are the best team in the history of this competition. They have 13 titles, numerous semifinal appearances, and some iconic moments, including the great comeback versus PSG in just 17 minutes in the Round of 16. While it might seem like it is irrelevant, there is truly something about Real Madrid and the Champions League. Despite having a depleted roster in so many regards since Cristiano Ronaldo left, they bounced back from two round of 16 losses in a row in 2019 and 2020, and now look set to make their second straight semifinal. In simpler terms, Real Madrid can never be discounted in the Champions League.
Even before this game, many analysts had Chelsea as favorites. Despite their internal issues and a defeat at home to Brentford 4-1 before the game, the Blues were still up there in terms of quality with Real Madrid. One could even say that Chelsea dominated in much of the game, playing with more control of the midfield, but that did not end up bringing them success in the end. On the other hand, Real Madrid used two of their four chances, plus a fluke mistake by Mendy, to show everyone that there can be no lack of concentration when a team is playing them in this competition. It just seems like the experience of the Real Madrid squad, most notably Benzema and their Casemiro-Kroos-Modric midfield, just won them this game and should win this entire tie.
The tactics Tuchel uses simply do not work versus this Real Madrid team
For the entire season, Thomas Tuchel uses a formation that is dependent on three center backs and full backs that track back defensively. Against Real Madrid, it was Andreas Christiansen playing on the right, supported by Reece James. Unfortunately for Chelsea and their tactics of a defensive line that plays high up, they played versus Vinicius Jr who is rapid, and Benzema who can reward his runs behind the defense. Reece James pushed far up the field and was not available to help Christiansen against Vini, who torched him for pace on four occasions by the end of the first half. The bigger issue for Chelsea going up in the second leg is that changing your entire approach does not really work if there is no time to prepare.
Real Madrid are hosting Chelsea on Tuesday, the 12th of April, just six days after their first leg in London. That is not enough time to practice some other options, especially considering the fact that they need to push up the field and try to score goals. What will likely happen in the second leg is that Tuchel will change who covers Vinicius on the right, but that will not help much. If Tuchel decides to push his backline further down the pitch, he will surrender some of the control to the opposition, which could kill off the tie. If he decides to push it up, no matter who is the center back on the right, Vinicius will always be quicker. It just seems that whatever Tuchel decides, Real Madrid will have the upper hand due to the pace of their star left-winger.