The time has come for Thomas Tuchel’s army to potentially book their ticket to Istanbul, with a chance of facing Manchester City in the Champions League final. All that stands in their way is a fierce Real Madrid side who will not go down without a fight. Chelsea are on the brink of their first Champions League final since 2012, and we all know how that one went… (Cue my tears every time I hear the words “they’ve beaten Bayern in their own backyard”).
But the final is a maximum of 120 minutes away, and before we gasp at the thought of reaching the final, we must not look past tonight’s opponents who will do everything in their power to get back in the final after two years without a sniff. Chelsea’s season has almost reached it’s crescendo, and the opportunity to tip Thomas Tuchel’s first six months in charge off with a bang awaits. Chelsea. Real Madrid. The main event.
Last week in Madrid, Chelsea’s fortunes split the fanbase in half. Some were over the moon with a draw. Others felt like we deserved a lot more from the game. I, myself, felt both, along with every other emotion under the sun, and I’m not sure I’m physically or mentally prepared for this evening, but I will certainly be watching through the gaps in my fingers. Chelsea took the lead thanks to a wonderful goal from Christian Pulisic, who’s close control left Thibaut Courtois scrambling (thanks Christian), but multiple missed chances may have cost us coming out of Madrid in a much better position. Nonetheless, we managed to secure an away goal, meaning if the Blue’s can keep a clean sheet tonight, then we are headed to Istanbul to face a spectacular Manchester City side (who we have beaten once this season).
But as I said, we must not get ahead of ourselves. Karim Benzema’s wonderful effort last week has brought the tie back to square one. Chelsea can’t just play for a 0-0 draw, as the Galacticos will be on the accelerator from the blow of the first whistle. We know what we’re capable of, we know we can do it, but focus must remain on tonight’s game, and tonight’s game only.
Player news and updates:
Thomas Tuchel has revealed that just one Blue will be unavailable for the game, and a bitter sweet one at that, as Mateo Kovacic has been ruled out, following his thigh injury in the game against Porto. Tuchel has stated that the game has come too soon to be able to feature Mateo, which may be a blow to the Pride of London.
Tuchel has, however, announced that Antonio Rudiger should be available to play in a protective mask should he require it, as he nurses a facial injury. This is huge for Chelsea, as Tuchel has completely revived Rudiger’s Chelsea career, and has got the German international playing the football us fans desire from him. Everyone else is available for selection, which could provide Chelsea a huge boost.
In the white corner, Raphael Varane, Dani Carvajal and Lucas Vasquez are expected to be out, but Marcelo’s recent call up for poll duty in Madrid may leave Los Blanco’s thin on the ground. That is, however, if Ferland Mendy is not at 100%, but the full back is expected to return. Sergio Ramos may also make the side, as his injury is looking to be cleared for the second leg.
Mendy, Christensen, Silva, Rudiger, James, Kante, Jorginho, Chilwell, Mount, Pulisic, Havertz.
Kovacic’s absence means the possibility of a Kante and Jorginho midfield two is on the cards. Azpilicueta may start ahead of Reece, but I’m hopeful to see James start, as I believe he can make more of an impact as a wing back. Mount suffered a scare when he left the pitch against Fulham following a harsh landing on his back, but the Player of the Season favourite should be well enough to start the match. I’ve gone with Havertz over Werner as the 21-year-old netted twice against Fulham, which surely puts him in the running for a start.
Players to watch:
N’Golo Kante: NG has time and time again proved the doubters wrong, as the Frenchman continues to improve tirelessly. Kante won the Man of the Match award in the first leg, following an exceptional performance in the middle of the park. I really don’t think there was a blade of grass that man didn’t touch last week. More of that please NG.
Karim Benzema: I couldn’t really go with anyone else, as the Frenchman has been admirable this season. Benzema is quietly going under the radar, which I myself think is absolutely mad, but after his equaliser last week, Benzema will be hungry to grab another this evening.
One more step boys, that’s all it is. A jaw dropping fixture awaits us this evening, lets hope our Blues can get the job done.
Written by @mashgreaves