Preview: Real Madrid vs. Chelsea

Preview: Real Madrid vs. Chelsea

The last two winners of Europe’s most coveted footballing prize lock horns in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final at the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday, as holders Real Madrid play host to Chelsea.

Carlo Ancelotti reunites with his former club after overseeing a 6-2 aggregate win over Liverpool in the last 16, while the Blues overcame a first-leg deficit to defeat Borussia Dortmund 2-1.

Amid talk of a shock return to the Stamford Bridge dugout as the Blues hierarchy search high and low for a new permanent head coach, wily Real Madrid manager Ancelotti has a fab five in his sights as he looks to add to his glistening continental trophy haul.

The four-time Champions League-winning manager typically showed no signs of panic when Liverpool roared into a 2-0 lead at Anfield during their last-16 first leg, as Los Blancos left the Anfield crowd shell-shocked by scoring five without reply before a slender 1-0 win at the Bernabeu got the job done with minimal fuss.

Should the 2022-23 season prove to be Ancelotti’s farewell campaign in the Blancos dugout, it would take a miracle for the Italian to depart on the back of another La Liga and Champions League double, with a 3-2 defeat to Villarreal at the weekend handing Barcelona the chance to move 15 points clear at the top with victory over Girona on Monday night.

As their Catalonian counterparts continue to ride off into the sunset, Real Madrid – who will also take on Osasuna in the Copa del Rey final – have earmarked Champions League title number 15 as priority number one, as they aim to eliminate an English team from a knockout tie for the fourth time in a row.

Not since an astonishing 3-0 loss to CSKA Moscow in December 2018 have Real failed to score in a Champions League home match, and each of their last five European games at the Bernabeu has ended in victory, but there are no prizes for guessing who inflicted Los Blancos’ last continental loss in front of the sea of white shirts.

The second managerial baptism of fire for Frank Lampard was expected to take place at the Bernabeu rather than Molineux, but there was no new manager bounce for a toothless Chelsea side on Saturday, as Wolverhampton Wanderers ruined the Englishman’s Premier League homecoming.

Matheus Nunes came up with a scorcher of a goal that Lampard would have been proud of scoring himself – firing a stunning half-volley across goal in a 1-0 win for Julen Lopetegui’s side – further denting Chelsea’s hopes of rising back into the top seven let alone igniting a fanciful Champions League charge.

Only a few weeks before his inevitable sacking, Graham Potter orchestrated one of Chelsea’s finest performances of his short-lived era against a Karim Adeyemi-less Dortmund, who were deservedly beaten 2-0 at Stamford Bridge in the second leg of their last-16 tie after gleaning a narrow first-leg advantage in Germany.

The 2022-23 season marks the third time in a row that Chelsea have reached the Champions League quarter-finals, and the Blues have remarkably not lost to the defending champions since being put to the sword by Porto in 2004-05 – winning two and drawing four for the longest-ever unbeaten streak against the European cup holders.

Fans were treated to a blockbuster quarter-final between Real Madrid and Chelsea last year, where a 3-2 Bernabeu win was in vain for the Blues as Real advanced 5-3 on aggregate to end the West London club’s defence of their crown. Exactly 365 days on from triumphing in the Spanish capital, Lampard and co will commence an identical revenge mission.

Real Madrid Champions League form:

Real Madrid form (all competitions):

Chelsea Champions League form:

Chelsea form (all competitions):

We say: Real Madrid 3-1 Chelsea
While seemingly possessing a formula for success against Champions League winners, Chelsea’s stellar streak of avoiding defeat versus the holders should come to an end in comprehensive fashion.

Villarreal proved that Ancelotti’s men are far from watertight at the back, but Los Blancos rested several big-name stars at the weekend and should feel wholly confident of gleaning a healthy first-leg lead before a trip to Stamford Bridge next week.

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