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There are not enough superlatives in the dictionary to describe Real Madrid number nine Karim Benzema, who played second fiddle to Cristiano Ronaldo for so long at the Bernabeu but is now stealing the spotlight as Los Blancos seek domestic and continental glory.
As if one hat-trick to dump Paris Saint-Germain out of the competition was not enough, Benzema made it back-to-back European trebles with an extraordinary showing at Stamford Bridge – scoring two early headers with the aplomb of the seasoned centre-forward that he is before taking home the match ball after Edouard Mendy‘s uncharacteristic mistake.
Carlo Ancelotti‘s side have one foot firmly in the semi-finals of this year’s competition and also ensured that they retained their double-figure advantage over the chasing pack in La Liga with a straightforward 2-0 success over Getafe – their eighth victory from nine in all competitions.
Los Blancos have certainly proven that the 4-0 Clasico thumping at the hands of Barcelona was little more than an outlier, and only once in 10 previous occasions have they failed to make it through in the Champions League when winning the first leg away from home – Ajax still rings a bitter bell for some Bernabeu supporters.
A second successive semi-final appearance is now within Real Madrid’s sights, and they have struck at least two goals in each of their last three Champions League wins on home soil, but Chelsea did manage to respond with a goal-laden showing of their own on the South Coast.
Real Madrid centre-back Eder Militao was fine to play the full 90 at the weekend despite coming off at Stamford Bridge, but the Brazilian will be watching from the naughty step this week as he serves a suspension for an accumulation of yellow cards.
Former Chelsea man Eden Hazard remains in the treatment room alongside Isco, but backup striker Luka Jovic has shaken off an ankle injury and centre-back Jesus Vallejo is absent after contracting COVID-19.
Ferland Mendy was rested at the weekend and should be fine to take Marcelo‘s place at left-back, while Nacho Fernandez should deputise for the suspended Militao, and Toni Kroos and Luka Modric are both refreshed after watching the win against Getafe from the substitutes’ bench.
Chelsea have a similar number of fitness concerns to deal with ahead of the second leg, with long-term absentee Ben Chilwell definitely out alongside Callum Hudson-Odoi, who has suffered a setback in his recovery from an Achilles issue.
Romelu Lukaku also missed the win at Southampton with Achilles pain and will sit out the Bernabeu trip, but Cesar Azpilicueta has tested negative for COVID-19 and is set to make the journey. However, Ross Barkley is now sick himself and is absent.
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Tuchel was able to bring Havertz, Mount and Thiago Silva off early at St Mary’s, but Werner’s brace may not be enough to see him retain his spot over Hakim Ziyech or Christian Pulisic.
Real Madrid possible starting lineup:
Courtois; Carvajal, Nacho, Alaba, Mendy; Kroos, Casemiro, Modric; Asensio, Benzema, Vinicius Jr
Chelsea possible starting lineup:
Mendy; Christensen, Silva, Rudiger; James, Kovacic, Kante, Alonso; Ziyech, Mount; Havertz