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After a tumultuous in football with the European Super League drama, the UEFA Champions League semifinals kick off on Tuesday. To start the round, the first club to back out of the Super League (Chelsea), will face off against the club whose president is the chairman of the league and is one of two clubs still in the league (Real Madrid).
Super League drama aside, Real Madrid, the competition’s most successful club (13-time winners), find themselves back in the Champions League semifinals for the first time since 2018 when they defeated Bayern Munich on aggregate 4-3. Real won the Final 3-1 over Liverpool to win their fourth Champions League title in five years along with capping off a three-peat.
The past two seasons without Cristiano Ronaldo have saw the Spanish giants fall to Ajax and Manchester City in the round of 16 the past two seasons.
This season, Real Madrid has gotten back to the semifinals after dispatching Atalanta in the round of 16 (4-1 on aggregate) and knocking out Liverpool 3-1 on aggregate after a brace from Vinicius Junior in the first leg.
The scoring for Real Madrid begins and ends with striker Karim Benzema, who has continued to add to his illustrious career with another 20+ goal season in La Liga with 21 goals and seven assists in 29 league matches. In UCL play, he has added five goals with Vinicius adding three.
Real Madrid will get a boost from Eden Hazard, who they signed for over 100 million euros in 2019, as he returns after a multitude of injuries in a bench role for the club against his former club, Chelsea. Despite his injuries and only scoring three goals for the club in league play in two years, he has the talent to make an impact when healthy and will be motivated to perform well against Chelsea.
Speaking of Chelsea, this season has been a tale of two halves for the Blues. During the first half of the season, Chelsea slipped outside European contention as manager Frank Lampard struggled to hold together a squad with many new additions competing with mainstays that led Chelsea to a top-four spot in the Premier League last season.
He was sacked in January and promptly replaced by former Paris Saint-Germain manager, Thomas Tuchel, who has created a defensive force in European football. Ever since Chelsea began their Champions League knockout round journey against Atletico Madrid back on Feb. 23, Chelsea has conceded a total of two goals across all competitions, aside from the disastrous 5-2 loss to West Bromwich Albion (two goals conceded in their past 13 matches).
This defensive renaissance has not only allowed Chelsea to surge their way into the top four of the Premier League table, but also get to their first UCL semifinals since 2014 when they lost 3-1 to Atletico.
They defeated Atletico in the round of 16 3-0 and took care of business against FC Porto 2-1 to advance to the semifinals against Real Madrid.
While the scoring across all competitions has been spread out, the main scorer in Chelsea’s UCL campaign has been French striker Olivier Giroud, who has six goals, including a bicycle kick against Atletico in leg 1 of the round of 16. Also, goalkeeper Edouard Mendy has been a stout addition for a club that spent over 200 million euros this past transfer window, earning 22 clean sheets across all competitions in his first year with the club.
This will be a battle between two clubs with stout midfields and defenses. Goals will be at a premium as Chelsea looks for their first Champions League Final berth since 2012 and Real Madrid is attempting to reclaim their throne after a two-year absence.
While Real Madrid looks to be the favorite on paper, Chelsea matches up favorably and should come out on top in this tie. N’Golo Kante and Mendy will hold Real Madrid’s attack in check and Mason Mount will score an electric goal in the second leg to lift Chelsea over Real Madrid.
Prediction on aggregate: Chelsea 2 Real Madrid 1