We can encapsulate the chasm between Real Madrid and Chelsea in how many UEFA Champions League titles they boast of. While Los Blancos are way ahead with 13, the Blues have had to console themselves with a solitary title.
Real Madrid and Zinedine Zidane have been here and done it many times over while the Chelsea team, led by Thomas Tuchel, are trying to create new history.
The first leg, especially the first 25 minutes, was one in which the Chelsea forwards were scurrying rabbits, being chased by elephants. It was a no-contest and Tuchel’s side could have been out of sight, but the pedigree of star players like Karim Benzema means the second leg is an open game-with nothing decided yet.
The return of Sergio Ramos, the grizzled and vastly experienced who has won the UCL title four times, should bring a settled feel to the defence, even though his normal partner, Raphael Varane, has to miss out because of injury.
In the first leg, Luka Modric was always chasing Mason Mount while Toni Kroos dropped deeper than he normally would get on the ball to provide ammunition for the forwards.
Thibaut Courtois will start this second leg, but Chelsea fans will not welcome him as Eden Hazard because of the way he left. Chelsea fans will like to see goals scored past their former goalkeeper to create memes and GIFs to mock the Belgian stopper on social media. For Hazard, there are a lot of fond memories, and many Chelsea fans believe the little magician will be back someday in the future to finish his career at the Bridge.
Mount, Timo Werner, and Christian Pulisic were the danger men in the first leg; elusive and faster than their opponents. On Wednesday, the trio, if they start will want to ensure they score more of the goal-scoring chances that will be created, especially if Ramos, who has not played a game of football for almost 50 days is drafted straight into Real’s starting 11.
Zidane spoke about the experience of this Real side at his press conference. He said, “We need to counter their strengths, their qualities, and use our own weapons, too. We feel good, we’re ready, we know what has brought us this far and we’ll give our all to get to the final,” of which they are experts.
But for Tuchel, the abiding message to his players is intensity-using their youthful essence to overwhelm the more experienced pros from Madrid. “The challenge is to keep the intensity going through the whole match,” Tuchel said at his press conference.
“It is a semi-final – the pressure is on; a knockout game, so to arrive with a level of belief and confidence is necessary, or we will have no chance. The main lesson is that we can trust ourselves and we have the right to be in the semi-final,” he added.
The die is cast! Which team will triumph? Will youth overpower experience or will the legacy team keep their place as they seek a 14th title?
Follow the live coverage on Premium Times from 7:45 pm on Wednesday.
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