Real Madrid will welcome Chelsea to the Estadio Di Stefano Stadium for the first leg of their UEFA Champions League semifinal clash on Tuesday night, and there is a lot to look forward to ahead of the game.
Los Blancos are favorites on paper as expected but will have to be wary of this Chelsea side that have been transformed under Thomas Tuchel. Meanwhile, ahead of the game, here are some battles that have been crying out to be settled.
Thibaut Courtois vs Chelsea
The towering Belgian goalkeeper didn’t leave Chelsea on the best of terms and his departure sure angered a lot of Chelsea fans.
Petr Cech was Chelsea’s number one but was displaced from the side to accommodate the Belgian who many thought would be the future between the sticks for Chelsea.
His unexpected forceful departure forced Chelsea into the transfer market in search of quality replacement and they had no choice but to shell out a record transfer fee for a goalkeeper to sign Kepa Arrizabalaga from Athletic Bilbao.
Kepa Arrizabalaga had a decent start to life at Chelsea while Thibaut Courtois had to compete before becoming the number one. He struggled with conceding goals and this was fun for some Blues fans.
However, he has settled as Real Madrid’s undisputed first-choice goalkeeper whilst the Blues fans have had to watch Kepa produce errors consistently and cost them some valuable points before he was replaced by Edouard Mendy this season.
Regardless, as Chelsea face off against Real Madrid in a competitive game after a long while, fans of the Blues would be keen to see their side give Thibaut Courtois and his side a run for their money so they can have the last laugh. Will they?
Thibaut Courtois also knows the reception he may have faced if fans were in the stands. Well, this won’t be the case and he’s also never one to run away from a fight.
I reckon he’d be up for this one. The only sad thing for Chelsea fans is that the supposed replacement for the Belgian will play no part in the game but be on the bench.
Eden Hazard vs Chelsea
The prayer on many lips was that Chelsea’s former talisman now at Real Madrid would be kept out of this game due to injuries, at least until the tie is over. Well, this won’t be the case as Eden Hazard has returned to action and came on as a substitute in the goalless draw against Real Betis at home in the La Liga.
Chelsea fans watched Hazard mesmerize and take defenders to the cleaners in his playing days at Stamford Bridge. Now, they’ll have to watch him as an opponent and see how their side fares against his attacking and creative prowess in this big game.
Hazard has been plagued by injuries since he made the move to Real Madrid and fans of both clubs have been on each other’s necks. Chelsea fans were not pleased that Los Blancos deprived them of Hazard’s genius and have not been worried that he hasn’t blossomed yet at Madrid.
After all, they got their money’s worth in his time at Stamford Bridge and also sent him off for a gargantuan fee with very little time on his contract.
Meanwhile, some fans in Madrid quarters are not slightly pleased and feel that the deal saw them scammed as the Belgian has not replicated the form that saw them shell out a significant sum for him. Therefore, eliminating Chelsea from the competition would be perfect revenge for the supposed scam. Funny though!
The Belgian may not be risked from the start but will surely play a part in the game if he can stay injury-free and this will provide a major challenge for the Thomas Tuchel led side.
Regardless, he will receive sweet reception from the Blues side but will he stab them in the hearts with his performance? We shall see!
No Kovacic! The gem from Real Madrid
Chelsea initially got Mateo Kovacic on loan from Real Madrid before making the deal permanent. The Croatian midfielder had a slow start to life at Chelsea but has been very impressive in the middle of the park since last season.
However, he’ll play no part for Chelsea at the Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium due to injury as confirmed by Tuchel and this is a major blow for the Blues and a plus for Real Madrid.
Kovacic would have been eager to show Real Madrid what they have been missing by sending him away with his performance on the pitch. Sadly, it will have to wait, maybe until the second leg. Hopefully, he’d be available.
We are looking forward to this cracker and hopefully, the scores to be settled will make the encounter an exciting one. Meanwhile, find reliable football streaming sites where you can see this game here.