Chelsea and Real Madrid will come to blows for the first time since the 1998 Super Cup final when they meet in this season’s Champions League semi-final.
It’s a clash of two sides who began the season in unconvincing form but have since managed to turn things around. Chelsea are back in the race for the top four in the Premier League, while Real are in an imposing position in the La Liga title race.
They’re two sides who are quite hard to predict, but we’re going to take a shot at it anyway.
These two sides are fairly similar on paper. Both teams are solid at the back, relatively underwhelming in attack (Karim Benzema notwithstanding) and strongest in midfield.
Benzema, as one of the best strikers on the planet, can singlehandedly drag Real to glory – a quality no Chelsea player has – while the midfield trio of Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Casemiro are simply sublime. On their day, nobody on the planet can match that.
They’re already at their peak, whereas Chelsea are only just figuring themselves out. The likes of Kai Havertz and Timo Werner are still ironing out a lot of bumps, and Real have a habit of punishing sides like that. You only need to look at how efficiently they kept Liverpool at bay.
A concern for Zinedine Zidane will be keeping his stars fit. Everyone in Madrid seems to be susceptible to injuries these days, but he’ll have faith in the strength of his stars to see him through.
Winner: Real Madrid
Thomas Tuchel has revolutionised Chelsea and is getting the best out of almost all of his players. He has saved Havertz’s career, turned Andreas Christensen into a superstar and even has Marcos Alonso proving his worth.
The German has created a tactic that is incredibly hard to beat and is getting a perfect response from his players. For that, he deserves a pat on the back.
That’s where Tuchel has the advantage over Zidane. The Real boss has fallen out with more than a few players in the squad and only seems comfortable putting his trust in a handful of players…most of whom just happen to be among the best on the planet.
Zidane seems to have a way of willing his side through any European game (something Tuchel is yet to prove) but the German’s ability to get the most out of an entire squad might give him the edge here. He’s got plenty of options, while Zidane needs his core group to come through.
On current form, Tuchel gets the nod.
Real seem to be in fantastic form, but unable to avoid throwing in a catastrophic defeat every once and a while. Defeats to Alcoyano, Athletic and Levante in January proved just how vulnerable Los Blancos can be.
However, since them, Real have been doing away with almost every side in their path, but they have still seemed a little shaky in defence, and injuries and illnesses impacting Raphael Varane, Sergio Ramos, Dani Carvajal and Lucas Vazquez haven’t helped that. There’s a weakness in this Real side that Chelsea will be looking to exploit.
Tuchel’s Chelsea have been a little more inconsistent, with more draws and the odd 5-2 loss to West Brom thrown in for the record, but one thing that works in their favour is their defensive form. Eight of Tuchel’s first 12 games ended in Edouard Mendy clean sheets, and it took a Mehdi Taremi worldie to end his perfect streak in Europe too.
We’ve got a team who know how to win up against a team who are specialists in not losing. It’s tricky to decide, but Real’s winning run cannot go unnoticed, and with someone like Benzema in your ranks, breaking down even the stubbornest of defences is a possibility.
Winner: Real Madrid
Probably the easiest section to choose a winner here. Do the words ‘tomorrow is a final’ mean anything to you?
Despite a few blips, Zidane rarely struggles to find a way to win these kinds of games. Even if Real are playing poorly in the build-up, he can take his side to another level when it matters most, and nobody can understand how.
Chelsea have already seen off Atletico Madrid and Porto in the Champions League, but even the strongest Blues fan would admit that neither of those two sides played well enough to pose a threat. Sure, Chelsea did well to neutralise them, but that job is made easier when your opponents aren’t really up for it in the first place.
Real will be up for this one.
It will be a fantastic test for Tuchel and Chelsea, but when it comes to the ability to win matches like this, it’s Zidane all day long.
Winner: Real Madrid.
At 3-1 in Real’s favour, you can probably guess which side of the fence this conclusion will lie on.
Chelsea are an excellent side who have proven their pedigree – you don’t get to the Champions League last four if you’re not talented – but they’re mixing with some big boys now, and that might just be a level too far.
Real have shaken off the cobwebs from earlier in the season, and while they still don’t look like world-beaters, they’re very, very good. Maybe not win-the-whole-thing good, but still.
This could be a fascinating watch, but over two legs, expect Real Madrid to edge it.