The Champions League semi-final between Real Madrid and Chelsea is full of little stories.
Thomas Tuchel has managed to make Chelsea one of the best defenses in Europe. The Blues had however chosen offensive reinforcements in the last transfer window (Werner, Ziyech, Havertz…). But faced with the misforms and the necessary adaptation of these recruits, the German coach relies on the strength of his defensive block. The most convincing signature is thus called Edouard Mendy, who quickly became indispensable. The former Rennes goalkeeper could sign a Champions League record on Tuesday: if he does not concede a goal at Santiago-Bernabeu, he will equal Keylor Navas, the only goalkeeper to have conceded only two goals after ten matches in an edition of the Champions League.
With its Senegalese rampart, yet a beginner at this level, the British rearguard shines, even if it means sacrificing a little spectacle. There have been no more than two goals in the Blues’ last five appearances on the European stage.
In Madrid, we take the same ones and start over. To find the European summits, Zinédine Zidane was able to revive the executives who had taken the Merengue to three Champions League ranks between 2016 and 2018. The trio of midfielder Kroos – Modric – Casemiro, so decisive in this resounding treble, has regained its fullness in recent weeks. And if Cristiano Ronaldo is no longer there to finish the job, Karim Benzema remains one of the engines of the Madrid attack. Experience to spare at all levels.
Chelsea cannot say the same. The Blues have only six players with at least 25 games played in their career in the Champions League, against 14 in the Madrid ranks. A chasm in terms of experience, but not necessarily in terms of talent. “I do not think the experience will be so important, Zidane tempered at a press conference on Monday. Chelsea deserve to be there, as much as we do. We will have to deliver two high quality matches.” Besides Havertz, Werner or even Chilwell recently arrived, Thomas Tuchel does not hesitate to rely on local products such as the excellent Mason Mount (attacking midfielder, 22 years old), Reece James (right back, 21 years old) or even Callum Hudson-Odoi (winger, 20). So many weapons at the disposal of the German trainer.
Santiago-Bernabeu welcomes the shock Real Madrid – Chelsea, Tuesday April 27, in the semi-final first leg of the Champions League. Duels of Blues, duels of coaches, clash of generations, returns of old … the ingredients are united to give a particular flavor to the meeting.
The first was seriously endangered. The second was fired from PSG by the small door before returning a few months later by the big one, to Chelsea. Between Zinédine Zidane and Thomas Tuchel, there is no lack of common ground, starting with the skepticism that accompanies their season. But despite the criticism, here they are both in the last four of the Champions League, once again.
Not always very convincing with a serious dip after the holidays, Zidane has been put under pressure, both by the media and by President Florentino Pérez. But the French technician has found the right formula and the storm has passed. Real are still in contention for a Liga – C1 double. For his part, if Chelsea abandoned the championship, he still found ambition. This rebirth bears the seal of Thomas Tuchel. The former Parisian technician managed an express acclimatization to the Premier League to quickly forget his ouster from PSG at Christmas, a few months after taking the club from the capital to the final of the Champions League. He even offered himself a record in the history of the Blues, Saturday, April 24, at West Ham (0-1 victory) by becoming the first Chelsea coach to sign ten matches away from home without the slightest defeat. Additional reason for hope for the London training: their technician is undefeated in his career against the Spanish clubs (three wins and three draws, 1-3 against Real).