Zinedine Zidane resorted to a 3-5-2 formation against Chelsea to address injuries to a number of key players including Ramos, Mendy, Vazquez and Valverde. However, it is fair to assume that none of the injuries impacted the manager’s gameplan more than Ferland Mendy. The French defender has cemented himself as an integral member of the core team and the undisputable number one option at left back.
Furthermore, he boasts an impressive personal winning record this season when compared to his teammates that have featured signficantly. Expectedly, Mendy’s absence was sorely felt against Chelsea as the English team mounted many of their attacks down Real Madrid’s left side.
This can be seen when looking at Chelsea’s dribbling actions in the first leg. There is a concentration of activity on Real Madrid’s left flank as Kante and Pulisic caused untold trouble to the Marcelo-Nacho tandem including Pulisic’s headed pass to Werner for a great chance early in the game.
There were also several Kante runs such as when he skipped past Nacho and found Azpilicueta in open space for example. While there were critical structural issues with Madrid’s pressing system that had ripple effects and exposed the Los Blancos defense, Mendy’s pace and individual ability would have made a notable difference in some of these situations. Especially in consideration of the Blues’ highly energetic and pacy attack.
Mendy’s absence is additionally evidenced when looking at the away team’s crossing, through balls and key passes figures. More of Chelsea’s attack appear to have been flowing through Real Madrid’s left side. This reinforces the issues the home team and specifically their defense experienced during the ninety minutes.
Zidane will be hoping that Mendy will be available for selection in the second leg. His stellar individual record, which could be somewhat of a good omen, and his tremendous defensive capabilities make him an instrumental element of the first team and one of the potential keys to the Champions League final.