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View from the camps
Zinédine Zidane, Real Madrid head coach: “We’re all pulling together and this side always does that and it always wants more. We’ve not won anything yet, but we’re alive in Europe and the Liga.”
Christian Pulišić, Chelsea midfielder: “There’s a lot of confidence – we have a great team, a very confident bunch of guys. We’re going to go in and try to win this thing.”
Chelsea will travel to the Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium without former Real Madrid midfielder Mateo Kovacic for the first leg of their Champions League semi-final with Los Blancos.
Manager Thomas Tuchel has already ruled the Croatian out of Tuesday’s tie with a thigh problem, but the Blues have no fresh injury concerns from their narrow win over West Ham United.
Kovacic’s absence will see Jorginho and N’Golo Kante continue to man the engine room once more, while Ben Chilwell is sure to keep his place on the left after setting up Timo Werner for the winner at the London Stadium
There could be an alteration on the right, though, as Cesar Azpilicueta is likely to move back into the heart of defence, allowing Reece James to bomb down the flanks.
James should be supporting two familiar faces in Mason Mount and Werner up top, but Kai Havertz is competing for a place over Christian Pulisic, and it is a battle that the German may win.
Thiago Silva managed to come through the full 90 minutes against West Ham unscathed, so the veteran centre-back should join Azpilicueta and Antonio Rudiger in the back three as Andreas Christensen drops out.
Edouard Mendy has reclaimed his rightful spot in goal over Kepa Arrizabalaga, and he will hope to equal Keylor Navas’s record of the fewest goals conceded in his first 10 Champions League matches, having shipped just two goals in nine so far.
Chelsea possible starting lineup:
Mendy; Azpilicueta, Silva, Rudiger; James, Jorginho, Kante, Chilwell; Mount; Werner; Havertz
Real Madrid have a very tough test ahead of them in the Champions League. Although Chelsea may not have seemed like Champions League title contenders a few months ago, they are in the semifinals and very much in the conversation after Thomas Tuchel took over. Tuchel dispatched of Diego Simeone and Atletico Madrid, La Liga’s leaders, with ease, and he is ready to make an example out of another La Liga club.
It will take everything for Real to outlast Chelsea, who present Los Merengues with a stronger challenge than Liverpool ever did. But Los Blancos are not without their advantages. Here are three areas in which Real hold an advantage over the Blues that they can use to get off to the right start in the first leg.
Thibaut Courtois in goal
Chelsea have found a quality goalkeeper in Edouard Mendy, who is young and has saved 70 percent of the shots he’s faced in the Premier League. But Real Madrid have one of the best keepers in the world in Thibaut Courtois. Last year’s Zamora Trophy winner, Courtois is no doubt a familiar face to Chelsea fans, given he was literally the best in the world at the position before leaving for Los Blancos.
It took a bit of time for Courtois to find his footing, but once the team around him settled, so did he. And it is not a stretch to say that in 2021, he is the world’s best. Jan Oblak certainly has something to say about that, but Courtois is the one leading the way in La Liga with a jaw-dropping 81.6 save percentage.
Courtois was brilliant in the second leg against Liverpool and has put in some tremendous performances in 2021. He can single-handedly make the difference at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano this Tuesday.