Aug 4, 2021

PREVIEW: Chelsea To Host Real Madrid At Stamford Bridge

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The tie is delicately poised following a 1-1 draw at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano last week.

FILE PHOTO: Thomas Tuchel's men are set to welcome Madrid in London tonight. PICTURE: Getty Images

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LONDON: Madrid have been boosted by the return of the Brazilian-born Marcelo who became a Spanish national in 2011.

Following an enthralling and rain-soaked first leg in the Spanish capital, Chelsea prepares to welcome Real Madrid to Stamford Bridge for the second leg of their Champions League semi-final battle tonight.

The tie is delicately poised following a 1-1 draw at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano last week, during which Christian Pulisic’s opener was cancelled out by an equally impressive Karim Benzema finish.

Both European powerhouses enjoyed 2-0 victories in league action at the weekend, as Chelsea overcame Fulham while Los Blancos comfortably swept aside Osasuna.

Serial Champions League winner Zinedine Zidane saw his defence carved open at will by Tuchel’s bright attacking forces, but Chelsea’s lead lasted all of 15 minutes as European veteran Benzema netted his 71st Champions League goal – and a stunning one at that – to restore parity just before the half-hour mark.

Zidane certainly knows a thing or two about success in the Champions League, and amid intense speculation surrounding his Bernabeu future, the Frenchman would do well to propel Real Madrid back to the top of the continental game this time around.

Los Blancos have managed to banish the demons of their back-to-back last-16 exits in 2019 and 2020, and in the previous three times that Zidane has overseen a Champions League semi-final, his side have progressed on all three occasions, with their spate of dominance between 2016 and 2018 yet to be replicated.

Madrid have been boosted by the return of the Brazilian-born Marcelo who became a Spanish national in 2011. Marcelo was chosen by city authorities as a backup monitor was drafted into the team supervising a regional election in the Spanish capital.

Adults on the country’s electoral register are chosen at random to staff polling stations, for which they are paid 65 euros ($72).

Marcelo reported for work early in the day at a polling station in the suburb of La Moraleja.

According to Marca, the star was sent home a few minutes later when the principal worker selected for the task arrived – leaving him free to travel to London for Wednesday’s Champions League semifinal second leg against Chelsea.

Chelsea will need to show togetherness, especially with Eden Hazard set to start for the visitors. Hazard has struggled with injuries since joining Madrid two years ago but the former Chelsea winger will be determined to impress on his first appearance back at Stamford Bridge.

So will it be Real Madrid or Chelsea v Manchester City in the final?

Whatever the combination, it promises to be a classic. And the host venue, Istanbul’s Ataturk Stadium, knows all about hosting classic finals. It was the stage, of course, for the most dramatic Champions League final of all, Liverpool’s incredible comeback win over AC Milan in 2005.

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