Madrid maintain recent upswing
Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti has praised the positive reaction of his players in recent weeks as the Spaniards push for a successful end to 2021/22. Los Blancos suffered their first home La Liga defeat of the season before the international break with a 4-0 humbling at the hands of Clasico rivals Barcelona. However, Madrid have clicked back into top gear since.
Goals from Casemiro and Lucas Vazquez sealed a 2-0 home triumph over neighbours Getafe on Saturday night to move the hosts to within touching distance of the La Liga title. Meanwhile, Karim Benzema's hat-trick fired Real to a thrilling and richly-deserved 3-1 victory at Chelsea in last week's first leg quarter-final Champions League showdown.
Ancelotti said, "We've not lost our heads after the Barcelona's shock. We have managed the situation well and showed our quality. Against Chelsea, we played really well - had good control of the game, we showed good organisation defensively and were dangerous on the counter-attack. But we know it only the first half of this round and we must go again."
Federico Valverde could against start again on the right after a solid display at Stamford Bridge last week. But left-back Ferland Mendy continues to train alone in his bid to be fit for the midweek match-up with Nacho deputising should the Frenchman miss out. Elsewhere, Luka Jovic and Eden Hazard are confirmed absentees for Los Blancos.
Chelsea smash sorry Saints
Chelsea clicked back into gear after back-to-back defeats following the international break with a 6-0 destruction of Southampton at St Mary's on Saturday. The Blues turned on the style from the first whistle and blew Saints away - hitting the woodwork three times and scoring four unanswered goals in an astonishingly one-sided first-half.
Marcos Alonso, Mason Mount, Timo Werner and Kai Havertz were all on the scoresheet and Chelsea continued their onslaught after the interval, leading 6-0 after 54 minutes before easing off. Overall, the defending Champions League champions landed 14 shots on-target and won the shot count 24-4 whilst enjoying a dominant 71% of possession.
Thomas Tuchel's preparation were hampered by the absence of £97.5m forward Romelu Lukaku because of injury and captain Cesar Azpilicueta after a positive coronavirus test but the Blues chief was keen to praise his players for their performance post-match, saying the display was based on "concentration, commitment, hunger and quality."
Speaking post-match, Tuchel said: "This is how we want to play and we gave an answer because you could see it on the scoreboard. Real Madrid is a completely different game and opponent. The situation does not get easy. It will be a very difficult task and there is no change to it. But we will put a plan in place and we go there with belief and confidence."
Real Madrid and Chelsea have crossed words in the Champions League three times since the start of last season with the Blues enjoying the upper-hand in the 2021/22 semi-final match-ups, holding Los Blancos to a 1-1 draw in the Bernebeu before beating the Spaniards 2-0 at Stamford Bridge. Last week's first leg defeat was Chelsea's first loss in six against Madrid.
Real Madrid 2.466/4 hold a 12-point advantage at the top of the La Liga table yet Los Blancos haven't often appeared as dominant as the standings suggest. Carlo Ancelotti's charges were second-best for large swathes of their tie with PSG but were inspired by a Karim Benzema masterclass in the first leg. The Spaniards are now hot favourites to progress.
Chelsea 3.052/1 had suffered a solitary 90-minute loss in 26 (W16-D9-L1) outings across all competitions before the international break so the successive Blues defeats that followed against Brentford and Real Madrid were a major shock the system. Thomas Tuchel's troops must now close a two-goal deficit and are rated as big as 8.007/1 To Qualify by the Exchange.
The goal expectancy was low going into last week's first leg meeting. However, considering the circumstances, the goal expectancy has understandably been raised to 2.75 goals with Over 2.5 Goals trading at 1.875/6. A more appealing play might be to support Chelsea Double Chance and Both Teams To Score at 2.3211/8 on the Bet Builder.
Real Madrid could well opt for pragmatism here to protect their advantage, although Los Blancos boast more than enough ammunition and ability to get on the scoresheet as Chelsea go chasing. The Blues rarely fire blanks and it's surprisingly seldom for a Champions League outfit to win both legs of a knockout encounter, giving the visitors hope.