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Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Chelsea | UEFA Champions League



Photo by PETER POWELL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

There is an unexplainable sense of security as a Real Madrid fan heading into a UEFA Champions League Matchday as they gear up to take on Chelsea in the quarter-finals.

Los Blancos find themselves pitted against one of the Premier League’s biggest sides over the years, yet, one knows that very few sides in world football can claim to be better than Carlo Ancelotti’s side in knockout football.

The first of two legs will be played on Wednesday at the Santiago Bernabeu. Stamford Bridge will host the second leg later this month, making it imperative for the Merengues to utilise their home advantage first.

With the Copa del Rey almost in the bag, a big win on Wednesday could help Real Madrid put a foot into the Champions semi-finals and complete their dream of two trophies at the end of the season.

Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Chelsea.

1. The one that matters

Real Madrid’s collapse in La Liga from January is a matter of concern, yet is a blessing in disguise for the squad.

Carlo Ancelotti may insist that the league title race is still not over and that his side will fight for it until the very end. Yet, it is clear that the men in white see La Liga as a tertiary priority this season with significantly more focus placed on the Champions League and the Copa del Rey.

Los Blancos dropped three vital points against Villarreal at the weekend but the defeat was not talked about enough for the same reason. Nestles between the fixtures against Barcelona and Chelsea, the league game was given a pass.

Now Ancelotti’s men face the real challenge and the one they are expected to relish. Taking on Frank Lampard’s vulnerable Blues, the Spanish champions are the favourites to run away to a lead on Wednesday.

The first reaction in the dressing room after the defeat to Villarreal was a pledge by the players that the result on Saturday would not affect their confidence and momentum midweek. That desire and belief, needless to say, will be a must if the defending champions are to triumph over Chelsea.

2. The Reece James situation

A key battle. (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP via Getty Images)

Real Madrid suffering against Villarreal was pioneered by one man on the opposition’s right wing. Samuel Chukwueze, the latest transfer target for the Merengues, smoked through the hosts’ weak left wing on the night and gave Nacho Fernandez a run for his money.

Yet, the story was part of a recurring theme in Real Madrid games. Ferland Mendy’s injury has left the left-back position in a situation of worry and the manager has turned to Eduardo Camavinga and Nacho to fill his boots.

Against Chelsea, the battle down the left will be more important than ever.

Chelsea right-back and Real Madrid target Reece James is expected to start down the flank against Los Blancos and the matchups against him will decide the outcome of the game.

For starters, Vinicius Jr will go head to head against the 23-year-old who averages over ten defensive actions per game on the night. The Brazilian is by far the hosts’ most creative outlet and it will be a matter of concern if he cannot escape from the Englishman’s clutches.

Simultaneously, however, Chelsea’s right-back boasts of searing pace and stamina and is capable of generating devastating counter-attacks down the wing. With Ancelotti’s side having well-documented struggles at left-back, the battle becomes interesting.

3. The third attacker

Vinicius Jr and Karim Benzema are no strangers to playing against Chelsea. The duo has started in all four games between the two sides in the past two years with the Frenchman even scoring five goals in the process.

Come Wednesday, the Brazilian-French combination is expected to start again but there is a lot of discussion over who should join them in the final third. Ancelotti realistically has two options on the table – Rodrygo Goes and Federico Valverde.

Valverde started both legs of the UCL Quarterfinal against the London-based side last season and has been Ancelotti’s first choice to fill the third spot in attack this season. There are, however, two problems surrounding his case.

Valverde’s drop-off in form in recent games has been concerning. While the Uruguayan international is still key in buildups and is secure with the ball at his feet, he no longer shows the X-factor in front of the goal he boasted of earlier in the season.

Moreover, the youngster is not in the best state of mind after the events with Alex Baena on Saturday and could face serious sanctions for his physical assault. Ancelotti has confirmed that Valverde would play a part on Wednesday, but it remains to be seen if it is as a starter.

The most appealing option other than the midfielder is Rodrygo who is slowly making a case to be a regular starter. The youngster may not be a traditional right-winger but his ability to make runs into the box and his impeccable final touch give him a use case.

There may even be a possibility that Rodrygo gets the nod on the right flank while Valverde partners Toni Kroos and Luka Modric in midfield as he did against Barcelona last week.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Mrs Vahide Barnes

    April 13, 2023 at 1:46 am

    Chelsea as a team was amazingly so bad. I cant believe that the coach kept #11,(instead of having Plusik play at the left wing) who was so awful after missing an easy goal in early game. How can so many players in Chelsea miss so many passes? If they think that playing expensive players will win them games, they are so mistaken. So far,all they did was loose games.

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Real Madrid vs Athletic Club: End of an era, farewells, tight race for second place



Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images

Real Madrid will walk down the tunnel of Santiago Bernabeu one last time this season on Sunday night. The men in white are pitted against Athletic Club on their final match-day, and the game will not be an easy affair by any means.

The Basque side sit in seventh place on the league standings with 50 points in 37 appearances. However, their qualification for the UEFA Conference League is in danger with Osasuna lurking close behind with an equal number of points.

Anything less than a win could prove insufficient for the visitors and it is clear that they arrive at Santiago Bernabeu with nothing less than a win on their agenda. Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Athletic Club Bilbao.

1. The end of an era for the number 9 shirt?

Photo by Florencia Tan Jun/Getty Images

The grey area around Karim Benzema’s future has only widened in recent days. From a situation where his continuity at Real Madrid was taken for granted, it did not take long for the Frenchman’s story to enter a steep deviation.

An economically tempting proposal from Saudi Arabia had Benzema seriously contemplating a move away from Santiago Bernabeu, and reports stated that his departure from the Spanish club was close to complete.

The world, thus, looked in anticipation of his next official interaction with the media. The Ballon d’Or winner publicly addressed the topic for the first time earlier this week, and it is safe to say that his words gave nothing away.

Benzema neither confirmed nor completely refuted the rumours of his exit to the media. His situation is balanced on the blade of a knife and could tip in either direction.

In that sense, there is a good chance that tomorrow’s clash at Santiago Bernabeu is Karim Benzema’s final game for Real Madrid. If the striker does choose to change loyalties, it would mark the end of an era for the team’s number nine position.

It has been over a decade since the Frenchman took over the prestigious kit. He has played 647 games for the club so far in his career, scoring a stunning 353 goals in the process. Of them, 98 have been match-winning contributions.

2. A day of farewells

Photo by Fran Santiago/Getty Images

Earlier today, Real Madrid announced the departure of Marco Asensio from the club. The Spanish winger appears set to sign for PSG for the 2023-24 season and will bid adieu on Sunday. However, he will not be the only player playing his final game for the club tomorrow.

Nacho Fernandez has been a critical part of Real Madrid’s success in recent years but is another name close to sealing an exit. The defender is not satisfied with the playing time under his belt at the club and has not yet responded to the renewal offer on his table.

With his contract running out in less than 30 days, he appears closer to leaving than staying. One can expect an announcement from Nacho on Sunday night after the game at the Bernabeu, which could be his final game in white.

The situation with Dani Ceballos is quite similar. The Spanish midfielder is still undecided on his future, although there is still a slight chance he could continue at the club. Staying on the subject of players making their final appearance, however, he could be one on the list.

Away from the stories of incomplete renewal negotiations, Mariano Diaz is one player whose departure from the club is confirmed. Ferland Mendy, Jesus Vallejo, Alvaro Odriozola and Eden Hazard are some of the other candidates well-placed to make departures, although nothing can be said for sure.

3. A tight race for second place

Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

There is not much to play for on Sunday night except for the emotional tag of it being the season’s final game. Yet, the men in white will not be without an objective against Athletic Club.

Los Blancos sit on 77 points in 37 league appearances this season and just have a one-point lead over third-placed Atletico Madrid. Needless to say, they must be vary of their position on the standings for any complacency could see them drop down the ladder.

Diego Simeone’s men take on fifth-placed Villarreal at the same time as Real Madrid’s game against Athletic Club. Even if Carlo Ancelotti’s men settle for a draw against the Basque side, the second place would be Atletico Madrid’s to lose.

With both games kicking off simultaneously, there will be nerves throughout the ninety minutes in Madrid. One can only hope for action-filled games to keep the anxiety and adrenaline high.

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