It’s that time of year again when Real Madrid inevitably face Chelsea in the Champions League knockout stage. This has been one of the great fixtures of recent European history. Both teams have had to defeat each other on their way to their most recent Champions League titles.
The next game, tomorrow, however, poses a different kind of challenge for both teams. Real Madrid and Chelsea are out of consideration for their domestic leagues. Chelsea’s situation is a bit worse than Real Madrid's. Newly appointed Frank Lampard is their fourth manager of the season — a season in which Chelsea are 11th in the Premier League table.
Real Madrid, meanwhile, have clawed their way to the Copa del Rey final, but for both them and Chelsea, the Champions League remains the ultimate goal to salvage a season that hasn’t really gone according to their respective plans. The oddsmakers are citing Real Madrid as the favorites vs. Chelsea, but those who have watched this competition long enough know it: there are no favorites in these games.
Here are five stats tell an underlying story which can prove to make Real Madrid’s job much harder on Wednesday than is perceived on the surface.
6.6: Only Manchester City (4.6) have a lower xGA (expected goals allowed) than Chelsea (6.6) among the remaining teams in the competition.
Even in turmoil, Chelsea do not let their opponents create too many clear chances in the Champions League.
505: Chelsea has made more loose ball recoveries (505) than any other team in the Champions League this season.
Madrid needs to be at their controlling best to maintain possession against this side.
Only Manchester City and Bayern Munich have made more progressive passes than Chelsea in this season’s Champions League.
Chelsea have structural issues, but the talent is in abundance in that squad. There are capable ball progressors in N’golo Kante, Mateo Kovacic, and Enzo.
Chelsea are behind only Manchester City in terms of touches in the mid-third.
Real Madrid have a superior midfield on paper, but depending on several game states that are going to emerge as the match unfolds, Chelsea too has the capability to dominate possession in a critical area such as the mid-third.
18: Enzo Fernandez has committed the most fouls in this season’s Champions League with 18 (for Benfica and Chelsea).
Real Madrid players will need to watch out for Enzo’s aggressive style of play.