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Opponent watch: Chelsea name Frank Lampard as manager as Real Madrid clash looms

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Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

As Chelsea gear up to take on Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League quarter-final first leg next week, they have officially confirmed that Frank Lampard has been re-hired by the club as caretaker manager until the end of the season.

The Blues were left without a manager after they sacked Graham Potter following a poor run of results. The Englishman had only been appointed a couple of months into the new season as a replacement for Thomas Tuchel.

Things have seemingly now come full circle for Chelsea as Lampard, who had been replaced by Tuchel in early 2021, is back at the helm of affairs, albeit only until the end of the season.

The former England international was unattached after being sacked by Everton earlier this season at a time when the Toffees were in the relegation zone in the Premier League.

Prior to that, Lampard had spent around 18-19 months in charge of Chelsea, between 2019 and early 2021. During that time, he managed 84 matches, winning 44 of those (D15 L25).

There had been reports of talks with other, more accomplished managers such as Luis Enrique, Julian Nagelsmann and Mauricio Pochettino, who is also a potential candidate for Real Madrid if Carlo Ancelotti steps down.

However, for the time being, Chelsea have gone ahead with Lampard, but only in a caretaker capacity and only until the end of the season, at which point they could likely appoint one of the aforementioned names as permanent manager.

Chelsea will play Real Madrid in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League quarter-final at the Santiago Bernabeu next week before hosting the Merengues at Stamford Bridge for the reverse fixture a week later.

Given their current form and Lampard’s underwhelming track record, Real Madrid will enter the contest as favourites to progress to the semi-finals.

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Matches

Camavinga, Tchouameni start in a 4-3-1-2: How Real Madrid could line up against Barcelona

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Photo by JAVIER SORIANO/AFP via Getty Images

Real Madrid will be aiming to get a step closer to lifting the La Liga title when they face off against FC Barcelona later tonight at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Real Madrid are currently seated atop the league table, eight points clear of Barça in second place. And another win tonight would stretch the lead to 11 points, all but guaranteeing their coronation as Spanish champions.

It will not be easy with Barcelona motivated after their defeat against PSG in the UEFA Champions League while fatigue could also be a factor after Los Blancos toiled it out for 120 minutes against Man City earlier this week.

Heading into the game, Real Madrid have one fitness concern as Ferland Mendy did not train on Saturday due to some overload in his left leg, although he was included in the squad list by Carlo Ancelotti.

Thibaut Courtois and David Alaba are the only injury-enforced absentees for the league leaders and here’s how Real Madrid could line up tonight against Xavi Hernandez’s side.

Starters

Fresh off his penalty shootout heroics against Manchester City, Andriy Lunin will guard Real Madrid’s goal again and hope to help his team to another crucial victory.

Antonio Rudiger has been in brilliant form this season and is a guaranteed starter at the heart of the Merengues’ defence. The German international should pair up with club captain Nacho Fernandez to stop Robert Lewandowski & co.

Even though there has been some chatter about Lucas Vazquez starting at right-back, Dani Carvajal is expected to get the nod as usual.

Mendy’s possible absence, however, could pave the way for Eduardo Camavinga to start at left-back for Real Madrid, with Ancelotti likely to trust the French midfielder in a makeshift role over Fran Garcia.

Camavinga could fill in at left-back. (Photo by PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/AFP via Getty Images)

Aurelien Tchouameni is back after missing the Manchester City game through suspension and will slot in as the defensive midfielder against Barcelona.

Federico Valverde and Toni Kroos will take up the two interior midfield positions for Real Madrid while Jude Bellingham will operate as the lone attacking midfielder.

However, it will not be a surprise to see Real Madrid transition into a 4-4-2 with Valverde and Bellingham moving out wide on the right and left flanks, respectively.

Rodrygo Goes and Vinicius Jr. are the undisputed starters up top in attack, with the former likely to operate from the left after his recent success while the latter will play slightly more centrally.

Real Madrid Predicted Lineup: Lunin, Carvajal, Rudiger, Nacho, Camavinga, Tchouameni, Valverde, Kroos, Bellingham, Vinicius, Rodrygo.

Substitutes

Brahim Diaz and Luka Modric are players that Carlo Ancelotti counts on from the bench for every game and that will not change tonight against Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Joselu is also an option that Ancelotti could turn to if he wished to change things up in the attacking unit.

Eder Militao could also get some minutes, depending on the game situation, as Ancelotti hopes to get the Brazilian into match-rhythm in time to face Bayern Munich.

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