Chealsea’s season is on the brink as they lose to Real Madrid

Chealsea's season is on the brink as they lose to Real Madrid

Real Madrid won the first leg 2-0 at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday, seizing control of their Champions League quarterfinal matchup against 10-man Chelsea. For the best sports betting casinos of April 2023, make sure you visit the Daddy!

Joao Felix missed a great opening opportunity for the Blues, who started out strong, until Real started to establish themselves. On minute 21, Karim Benzema scored his 90th goal in the Champions League to put his team ahead as Carlo Ancelotti’s team consistently pinned Chelsea back in their own half.

On minute 59, Ben Chilwell pulled back Rodrygo as he advanced toward goal, earning him a straight red card and adding to the pressure on the Blues to stave off the hosts. With a low shot 16 minutes from the end, substitute Marco Asensio increased Real’s lead. After Benzema squandered a great opportunity late on to end the tie, it is still very much in play going into next Tuesday’s second leg at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea’s 2023 campaign is on the verge of ending.

In an interview after leaving a meal with Real Madrid officials, Blues co-owner Todd Boehly confidently predicted a 3-0 Chelsea victory in Madrid. The first 15 minutes of the game were promising, with Chelsea looking like a serious danger on the counterattack. However, as has been the case all season, the Blues were unable to capitalize on their finest period of play.

It was simply a question of how many goals Real would score after Benzema gave Real the lead and Raheem Sterling wasted the opportunity to respond right away.

Real had taken eight attempts on goal by halftime, which is a record for most shots Chelsea has faced in the first half of a Champions League match since the record’s keeping began in 2003. Chelsea faced 10 shots on goal at game’s end, their highest in a tournament game since November 2012 against Juventus (13). Chelsea’s ability to compete was clearly limited by Chilwell’s red card, but these players’ confidence was also obviously shaken, highlighting the frailty that led to Graham Potter’s resignation as head coach ten days earlier.

The sole saving grace in this situation is that the tie still stands because they avoided suffering a more severe loss. Mason Mount’s spectacular stoppage-time strike by fellow substitute and ex-teammate Antonio Rudiger served as a harsh reminder of Chelsea’s present defensive frailties as well as the team’s struggles in front of goal. They will need to score, something they haven’t done in more than 400 minutes of football, in order to turn things around next Tuesday.

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Benzema is designed for the knockout rounds of the Champions League. His 14th goal in his last nine knockout games came in his 90th competitive goal, and once again an English team was the victim of his vicious finishing. Surprisingly, the 35-year-old’s last 11 goals in the Champions League have all been against teams from the Premier League: Chelsea (five), Liverpool (three), and Manchester City (three).

In the quarterfinal matchup against Chelsea from the previous season, Benzema scored four goals. His first goal, which came in the 21st minute and required just a tap-in after Vinicius Junior’s volleyed attempt was parried by Kepa Arrizabalaga, was one of the simplest goals he will ever score. Only Lionel Messi (27) has more goals in the Champions League against English opposition than Benzema’s 20.

The decision by manager Frank Lampard to use a 5-3-2 formation made some sense since it allowed Thiago Silva, 38, to return to the center of the defense for the first time since February 26 while also ostensibly offering more protection on the sides. It was also a no-brainer given the circumstances to wager on N’Golo Kante’s health on just his second start in seven months. Chilwell and Reece James, however, were stuck in a no-man’s land the whole evening, unable to offer any attack-related strength and left Wesley Fofana exposed to Vinicius.

Chilwell was finally let go as a result of that vulnerability.

Marc Cucurella, who had just entered the game as a substitute, lost Rodrygo in the back, and Chilwell was just able to catch up to him in time to get an evident straight red card. After only five minutes, Fofana had a booking, forcing him to navigate the game’s disciplinary minefield as Vinicius attacked constantly.

It’s debatable if Chelsea, given their current predicament, could have won this game regardless of how they set up, but Lampard’s strategy failed.

With 10 men, things became much more difficult, but Lampard replied by removing Sterling, Chelsea’s fastest player, off the field and switching to a 5-3-1 formation with Kai Havertz lining up in front of Kante, Enzo Fernandez, and Mateo Kovacic. The pacy Mykhailo Mudryk was available, but Lampard chose not to use him despite Sterling’s disastrous performance. As a result, Real’s well-deserved second goal was scored by Asensio within 15 minutes after Chilwell’s departure.

Author: Bobby Parker