Champions League: Three things Chelsea need for a historic comeback and defeat Real Madrid in Spain

After losing to Real Madrid 3-1 at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea left a mountain to climb ahead of the Champions League second leg on Tuesday (3 pm ET | CBS and Paramount+). The Blues were affected by an excellent performance by Karim Benzema, whose hat-trick gave Real victory. Chelsea were only able to score one goal which came from Kai Havertz despite producing plenty of chances and swindling 20 shots on the night.

A stellar performance from former Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and a shot from César Azpilicueta that hit the crossbar are the only reasons the tie is not close. Although Thomas Tuchel claimed the tie was over after the first leg, it seems the team took it as a message to improve, thrashing Southampton 6-0 over the weekend.

Mason Mount and Timo Werner were central to Chelsea’s spectacle and will likely need to feature again if Chelsea are to have a chance at the Santiago Bernabeu. Here are three things the Blues need in their favor to pull off a comeback against Los Blancos.

1. Possession is the best defense

We all know how dangerous Real Madrid’s attack can be, especially at home. Vinicius Junior opened holes in the defense with balls from above and Benzema did not need much to score the triple. That’s why letting Real Madrid have the ball is a bad idea. It can seem counterproductive to play a patient possession game in the hope of taking advantage of mistakes, that’s especially true when you need at least two goals to force extra time.

It’s also worth noting how vulnerable Real can be on the defensive end. They are the second worst in La Liga with 11 defensive errors that led to a shot. Only four of those errors have turned into goals, and that’s probably because Courtois has been a monster and has been able to prevent goals at an astonishing rate. Chelsea showed that he can generate chances against this Real Madrid team, but Tuchel cannot expect to defend as well as he would like, especially away from home in hostile territory. The biggest question will be who starts on the left wing between Christian Pulisic and Timo Werner. And for what Chelsea needs in the game, Werner wearing down Madrid with his speed and Pulisic coming on as a substitute if things are close makes sense and seems like the obvious scenario.

Werner’s work rate means he offers a bit more if things don’t go well in attack while his speed will give Dani Carvajal a handful. Pulisic can tend to get out of games quickly if he’s not focused, which is why he’d go with Werner here, as pressure from him brings more to the table.

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2. Unleash the wings

Just as Chelsea’s best defense in this tie is their attack, their best attack in this tie is their defence. When conceding a goal doesn’t change much in the tie, it would make sense for Tuchel to start at the same time in Madrid with Reece James, Marcos Alonso and Azpilicueta. Chelsea have scored 64 goals in the Premier League and 19 of them were scored by “defenders”. Behind Mason Mount, James and Alonso have been the most effective Chelsea players in creating chances despite neither having reached 1,600 league minutes.

Playing with the most possession-based attacking line-up possible will give Real Madrid something to think about every time they lose the ball. Combining that with Werner and the space Kai Havertz opens up with his excellent movement should give Chelsea good chances in attack, leaving the three strikers to finish their chances. This also leads to the next thing the Blues will need.

3. Lean on Mason Mount

No player is more important to Chelsea than Mason Mount. That’s especially true in the Premier League, where Chelsea are 6-1-2 whenever they score or provide an assist. In the Champions League, however, he only has one assist as the Blues have been able to rely more on his defense and play him in deeper positions. Without Romelu Lukaku, who will not travel to Spain, Mount needs to be used more as an attacker. He has the most shots and chances created on the team and winning what could be a shootout in Spain would be impossible without him playing a big part.

Chelsea came close to equaling Real Madrid in the xG battle in the first leg (1.83-1.35 in favor of Madrid), so the difference was not as great as the scoreboard suggested. When one of the best strikers in the world resides in Madrid, giving away chances is just asking for trouble. Limit those and there will be a chance of a historic comeback.

How to watch and odds

Date: Tuesday, Apr.12 | Weather: 3 p.m. Eastern Time
Location: Santiago Bernabeu Stadium — Madrid, Spain
TELEVISION: CBS | Live broadcast: Paramount+
Commentators: Peter Drury and Jim Beglin (Secondary Reporter: Guillem Balagué)
Possibilities: reais +150; Draw +250; Chelsea +175; O/U: 2.5 (via Caesars Sportsbook)

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