THE irrepressible Jack Wright (@JackWright_BSB ) is on-hand to preview Tuesday nights’s Champions League clash as Chelsea travel to Real Madrid.
Chelsea vs Real Madrid | Tuesday 12th April 2022, 20:00 | BT Sport
Karim Benzema’s second UCL hat-trick in successive games has well and truly put Real Madrid in the driving seat with the comfort of a 3-1 lead, ahead of this second leg showdown at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu.
Chelsea will be making the 44th attempt of a side to progress to the next round of the knockout stages of the Champions League having lost by at least two goals in the home leg – to illustrate the mountain they have to climb in Spain, 42 of the previous 43 attempts ended in failure.
Only Manchester United, under the then interim coach Ole Gunnar Solskjær in 2019, lost 2-0 at home to PSG at Old Trafford only for Marcus Rashford to convert a penalty deep in stoppage time to clinch the historic turnaround – a result which prompted the Red Devils to “get the contract out, put it on the table…” etc., etc. and put Ole “at the wheel” on a permanent basis.
Thomas Tuchel will at least take great heart from seeing his side emphatically return to winning way following back-to-back defeats, with the shock 4-1 mauling at home to Brentford proceeding last week’s reversal to the La Liga leaders.
Blues fans will certainly be hoping their side haven’t used up all their goals having seen them hit Southampton for six without reply on Saturday.
The Saints were blown away as the visitors warmed up for this week’s task in hand with a ruthless display on the South Coast, with all of their goals in the opening 55 minutes and in truth it could have been more, with Ralph Hasenhuttl I’m sure breaking out in a cold sweat at the thought of being on the receiving end of another nine-goal defeat.
That victory made it seven competitive away wins with each of the last six seeing the London side score two or more goals and should certainly ensure Carlo Ancelotti will have his guard up and warn his side of complacency against an opponent with such firepower.
However, unlike in the first leg I am avoiding predicting who will come out on top in this mouthwatering clash – after all a defeat is good enough for the home side as long as it is by a single goal, while of course the visitors will still be pushing even if they are a goal to the good with only seconds left on the clock, so instead I am siding with players who will be pivotal to both their sides.
There is arguably no more ruthless operator in world football right now than the aforementioned Karim Benzema, a player that just seems to be getting better with each passing year.
Looking at the 3-1 score line from Stamford Bridge it would appear a comfortable, dominant performance from Los Blancos however, it could be suggested the result was more down to how clinical their 34-year-old striker was – and xG of 1.67 to 0.93 in Chelsea’s favour would support that.
So, the task is simple, keep the France international quiet – easier said than done, after all he has 24 goals in 27 La Liga appearances this campaign to go with his 11 strikes in the UCL ahead of his ninth appearance this week.
Chelsea absolutely have to open up and go for it at some stage, which I think will pave the way for Real to play to their strengths and counter which in turn will lead to chances for their talismanic striker.
I was interested to see Benzema priced around 6/5 to score at least once, something he had done in each of his last seven club appearances prior to drawing a blank at the weekend, but the bet I settled on at 5/4 is based along similar thinking but won’t be thwarted if Edouard Mendy atones for his first leg error with another big game masterclass akin to the recent League Cup final against Liverpool.
Sky Bet are offering that price simply for Benzema to have two or more shots on target which again he had managed in the seven games prior to the weekend victory over Getafe – firing in 3, 4, 3, 5, 3, 3, & 2.
As already outlined with the players on display we should be set up for a cracking game with the visitors having to have a go, but equally both sides knowing they have the potential to score at least twice and with the possible ebb and flow of the game it suggests to me that there is a high possibility of seeing goals at both ends.
The bookies agree with me however and have priced the selection at a prohibitive 4/6 – but by using our trusty Bet Builder option we can create a tasty looking alternative at 21/20.
Chelsea’s goalscorer in the first leg was Kai Havertz, who really does give the impression of a big game player, he certainly seems to lift his performances for the bigger occasions.
The 22-year-old forward scored his seventh EPL goal of the season on Saturday, but was subbed off at halftime, presumably to make sure is as fresh as possible for this showdown, especially with Romelu Lukaku not travelling to Spain for the quarter-final second leg.
Since returning to the side in a central striking role the German international has been very consistent and managed at least one shot on target in all eight appearances (2, 2, 1, 1, 3, 3, 2, 2.) so seems the most likely source of goals for a side that knows they need at least two – but once again as long as he hits the target at least once – that will do for us for that part of the bet.
Real Madrid vs Chelsea – Karim Benzema 2+ Shots On Target (5/4 SkyBet)
Real Madrid vs Chelsea – Both Teams To Score & Kai Havertz over 0.5 Shots on Target (21/20 Bet365)