Real Madrid came into the home leg with a 3-1 lead in hand over Chelsea. Tuchel’s side needed to win by more than 2 goal margin to make it through to the semi-finals and continue the bid to defend their title. Madrid, who were without Militao, struggled in the game but eventually progressed 5-4 on aggregate thanks to some moments of pure genius and young blood.
Tuchel’s changed approach from the first leg caused Real Madrid plenty of problems and the lack of aerial prowess while defending left them vulnerable to set-pieces and crosses. Injuries, as the game progressed, didn’t help either as Madrid had to close out the game with Carvajal at CB.
Here is a look at how the teams approached the game and what the numbers tell us about it
Game Flow and Territorial Dominance
It comes as no surprise that Chelsea looked like the more threatening side in the game over large stretches. Tuchel’s gameplan proved effective and Chelsea were able to create and capitalize on their chances, sitting 3-0 up until the 80th minute. Chelsea were able to retain possession and maintain the pressure on Madrid. Later on the substitutions of Camavinga and Rodrygo swung some momentum in Madrid’s favor.
Real Madrid’s xG for the night was 0.9 in comparison to Chelsea’s 1.9. Madrid were outshot and for a large portion of the game left with no answer as the movements from the attackers posed multiple questions of Real Madrid’s backline. The dynamics between Werner-Mount-Havertz stretched the Madrid backline far too often.
Once again Chelsea not only had the possession in their favor but also they also had the territory. They had 57% possession and over 60% of the territory in the game and Madrid’s major improvement occurred after their substitutions. There is an interesting difference between the final third touches for Chelsea when compared to the first leg.
In the first leg, with Azpilicueta starting as the LWB, meant Chelsea didn’t manage to attack the space in behind the fullback towards the byline (as seen by the lack of touches in that region), Madrid were able to keep a lid on the wingbacks. In the 2nd leg, with Alonso playing as the LWB coupled with the movements from Werner and Mount, resulted in Alonso/Mount finding themselves in those positions frequently and getting lots of touches in the final third and towards the byline.
Tuchel learned his lessons from the first leg. He tweaked the team’s shape and deployed players in different roles to avoid isolated situations like Vinicius vs Christensen. His approach proved very effective. The change of personnel in fullbacks was key as Alonso now maintained width on the left while Loftus-Cheek was tasked with operating from the inside channels.
Madrid’s approach wasn’t much different from the first leg. With Valverde in the lineup, he provided an extra body in the middle in the first leg. This advantage was nullified by a couple of tactical instructions from Tuchel, a) Positioning of Alonso and b) movements of Werner.
With Kroos and Modric man-marking Chelsea’s double pivot, Loftus-Cheek drifting inside often resulted in Casemiro being outnumbered in the middle by Mount and RLC. Alonso’s positioning high and wide, coupled with Werner’s movements in the right channel to keep Carvajal and Nacho busy, meant Valverde found himself marking Alonso.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek was an interesting inclusion in the lineup in the RWB role. While stationed out wide, he tended to move inwards when Chelsea were building up, this provided them with an extra body in the middle to create overloads. Havertz’ movement out wide to occupy Mendy was key here as that did not allow him to push up with Loftus-Cheek.
Looking at the passing network over two legs to understand team structure in possession, we can see some clear differences. A poor pressing scheme in the first leg resulted in James pushing up to compensate and thus Vini finding himself isolated against Christensen. This was taken care of in the 2nd leg with an aggressive press and some tactical instructions.
Another key facet of the game was Chelsea’s left side of Werner-Mount-Alonso. The three players played very well off each other with Mount and Alonso often offering width interchangeably while Werned occupied the channels. These rotations resulted in the 3rd goal for Chelsea and a disallowed goal for Alonso stemmed from this pattern as well.
Loftus-Cheek often dropped off on the outside of James to provide support against the 1v1 threat of Vini and it worked for the majority of the game. James was conservative in his approach and it worked in neutralizing Vini for most of the game. While conservative, James did push up forward from time to time and this coupled with Havertz pinning Mendy, meant Vini was pushed deeper in the half further neutralizing him.
As can be noted from Chelsea’s passing network, both Werner and Havertz often split wide, stretching the backline. In the territory map for Havertz we can note the high volume of touches out wide on the left and a similar pattern can be observed for Timo on the opposite flank. Their roles were to drift wide to either drag the CBs with them or occupy the fullbacks, thus opening up space for usually Mount/Alonso from left to run into. Mount made those runs consistently throughout the game and the first goal resulted from a similar dynamic. These movements from the Germans were not always translated into touches on the ball but were a part of their off-ball chance creation.
Chelsea’s front 2 of Werner and Havertz pressed up on either CBs and Chelsea’s overall pressing intensity was very high. Pressing in a 442 diamond with Mount at the tip of it and Chelsea were able to cause Madrid some problems. The change in personnel and instructions meant there was no central overload and the WB didn’t have to push high up to close down passing options.
Madrid’s pressing saw improvements after the substitutions were made in the 75th minute. The fresh legs saw Ancelotti’s side up the ante towards the end of the game. The introduction of Camavinga and Rodrygo saw Madrid take an aggressive approach without the ball. Madrid’s press was largely non-coherent but there were some good individual pressing actions especially from Camavinga.
The 19 year-old’s introduction was a major game changer for Real Madrid. Involved in both goals for Madrid, first with his individual pressing action to force a pass from Kante and in the 2nd by recovering possession to start the move. His presence added a bit of urgency in Real Madrid’s passing, setting up the tempo and he provided solid defensive coverage as well.
Timeless. Brilliant. Different class. Luka Modric decided to transcend and grab the game by the scruff of its neck. He produced a pass beyond logic for Real Madrid’s first goal, finding Rodrygo at the back post. This comes after his slick pass found Benzema inside the box against PSG and his first time cross towards the far post resulted in Madrid’s 2nd goal against Chelsea in the first leg. Modric produces magic, on the regular.
Rudiger put in an absolutely brilliant performance in the 120 minutes at the Bernabeu. Apart from the slip towards the end which resulted in the Benzema header, his performance was largely flawless. His towering presence resulted in a goal for Chelsea and it saw him win all 3 of his aerial duels against Madrid’s CBs. His ball carrying and distribution helped Chelsea move through the thirds consistently.
Bits and pieces:
- Kovacic’s presence in the midfield saw Chelsea control proceedings. His ability to resist and break the opposition press via his ball carrying was vital and he was a central cog for Chelsea.
- Mount, who added another goal against Real Madrid to his tally, was brilliant as well. That was his 25th direct goal contribution for the season from midfield. His left side rotations with Werner and Alonso coupled with the runs behind the backline were a source of constant threat for Madrid.
Real Madrid now await Pep Guardiola’s Man City in the semi-finals of the Champions League.