Chelsea welcomes 13-time Champions Real Madrid to Stamford Bridge in what is set to be Chelsea’s biggest game of the season yet. The first leg saw Chelsea leave with only a draw but there was an away goal to come from that. Chelsea wasted the opportunity they got in the first leg to kill the tie in the first leg, particularly the first 25-35 minutes of the match. Tuchel’s men have been nothing if not defensively solid since the German arrived and that defensively solidity is going to be needed now more than ever. Chelsea goes to Istanbul with a clean sheet against Real Madrid in this match, a 1-1 sees them in an awkward position with potential extra time drama but if Chelsea concedes more than one goal, the only way they get to the final is if they outscore their opponents. Here’s who we think Tuchel trusts with the pressure to get the Blues to Istanbul:
Edouard Mendy (No.16) Goalkeeper, Senegal
After making no save against Real Madrid in the first leg, he was superb against Fulham making three crucial saves to ensure the Blues kept their 18th clean sheet in the Premier League. Mendy is an exceptional shot-stopper as he has shown since he arrived at the Bridge and will continue to start when fit. Kepa Arrizabalaga has been equally superb, yet to concede a goal since Tuchel arrived, but Tuchel has clarified that Mendy is the starter, as he should be. Mendy will be key in the Real Madrid game, as he would kill most chances Real Madrid might want to create by crossing into the six-yard box.
Andreas Christensen (No. 4) Right centerback, Denmark
Christensen was very good in the first leg against Real Madrid and in the game against Fulham. He made more defensive actions (6) in the Real Madrid game than both his centerback partners combined (4). He has made himself key to Chelsea’s defensive structure. He has kept 3 clean sheets in the Champions League this season, and all three have come under Tuchel. He has also adapted to the right centerback role well, proving that the difference in roles of a centerback in either role of a three centerback formation is negligent. He has played two matches in the last week though, and probably should be rested, but given Tuchel’s preference Christensen is likely to get another go. Centerbacks have a different recovery path anyway.
Thiago Silva (No. 6) Centerback, Brazil
Silva was culpable for the goal conceded against Real Madrid in the first leg, it has to be said. That said he’s a very experienced centerback in this competition and with the height of the stakes in this game, his presence in the side is invaluable. He was also captain of the Paris Saint Germain squad that triumphed in this stage of this competition last season and therefore he has even more recent experience. Silva, though, has only kept one clean sheet in the Champions League this season from five starts. In those games he has had Zouma, Zouma (Silva was subbed off at 68′ so clean sheet didn’t count), Zouma, Rudiger-Azpilicueta and Christensen-Rudiger in the games he started. He is yet to keep a clean sheet without Zouma alongside him. Silva is still an exceptional centerback and clean sheets aren’t achieved individually, but it cannot be ignored that the people he’s supposed to be leading are getting more clean sheets in his absence than in his presence.
Antonio Rudiger (No. 2) Left centerback, Germany
Rudiger was superb against Real Madrid. He played a perfect ball over the top for Pulisic, who controlled it beautifully and dribbled his way into a perfect position to shoot at a Courtois-less goal. Unfortunately he was not blameless in the goal that was conceded on the night either, he and Silva missed a header that saw the ball get flicked to Benzema who scored. The Blues didn’t concede any other shot on target in that match, which is a testament to how good the defense was, apart from that goal-conceding moment. Rudiger has the second most clean sheets under Thomas Tuchel, his presence has had clear benefits to the team and its objectives.