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Back Real Madrid to beat Chelsea in Tuesday’s encounter at Stamford Bridge. The Blancos should have too much quality for opponents who are struggling to win games right now.
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Real Madrid is a club that has always defined itself by the Champions League. That is understandable, since there has never been a time in the competition’s history where the Blancos have not been the most successful side in it.
After their triumph last year, Madrid moved onto 14 European crowns. That is double the amount of the team that is second in the rankings, AC Milan. In recent years they have won relatively few La Liga titles: just four since 2008, compared to eight for Barcelona in that time (plus one more this season, although that is not yet officially confirmed).
But the supporters at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu have been highly satisfied as Madrid have won five Champions Leagues since 2014. Since that campaign, every other club in Europe has won the tournament a combined four teams. That demonstrates Madrid’s dominance of the competition over the last few seasons.
There is an excellent chance that the Blancos will secure their spot in another semi-final this time around. Thanks to goals from Karim Benzema and Marco Asensio, they hold a 2-0 lead over Chelsea from the first leg.
That contest last week was one-sided. It is true that Chelsea’s task was made even harder by Ben Chilwell’s red card shortly before the hour mark, but Madrid were already well on top at that point - and the sending-off was provoked by their good play anyway.
Carlo Ancelotti might even be disappointed that his team do not have an even larger advantage to take to west London. Madrid were on top for the vast majority of the encounter in Spain, and a third goal would not have been an inaccurate reflection of how in control they were.
Chelsea fans could be forgiven for counting down the days until the season ends. They have had very little to cheer since the start of 2022/23. The Blues suffered early exits from the FA Cup and the EFL Cup, two competitions they reached the final of last term.
Meanwhile a 2-1 defeat by Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday has left Chelsea in the bottom half of the Premier League table. They could finish outside the top 10 of the top tier for the first time since 1995/96, long before they were regularly winning silverware.
Chelsea are onto their third manager of the season. Graham Potter replaced Thomas Tuchel last September, before the former was dismissed at the beginning of this month. Frank Lampard has been handed the reins on an interim basis until the end of the season, but his three games at the helm have produced three losses.
If Chelsea are eliminated from the Champions League on Tuesday, they will have nothing left to play for this term. Even a top-seven finish, and thus qualification for the Europa Conference League, is in effect unattainable with a 10-point deficit to make up.
Lampard, as a club legend and Chelsea’s all-time leading scorer, was brought in with a view to improving the mood around the camp. So far at least, that has not happened - and time is running out to put that right.
“It's not good enough from our point of view,” Lampard said after the loss to Brighton. “All the basic parts of football - to fight, to run, and those things - we were short on. We have to dig ourselves out of that very quickly.”
That is hardly a ringing endorsement.
Real Madrid won 3-1 at Stamford Bridge on their way to the final of last season’s Champions League - and that was a much stronger Chelsea side than the current iteration. The Blues have very little chance of advancing to the semi-finals, with the best online sportsbooks rating their chances at +650.
To reduce those odds, Chelsea will need to make a quick start. An early goal in their favor would be enough to keep them in the tie, and there is certainly enough talent at Lampard’s disposal for the Blues to put Madrid under pressure.
But even in that scenario, it is hard to envisage a path to an aggregate victory. Madrid are not a team that gets rattled easily. They demonstrated their unflappability against Liverpool in an earlier Champions League game, going down 2-0 at Anfield and roaring back to win 5-2.
Sometimes it is worth remembering that betting can be straightforward. Put simply, Madrid are a better team than Chelsea and they have more than enough ability to win on Tuesday. The fact that Stamford Bridge is likely to grow restless at the first sign of adversity will only help their cause.
Betting the moneyline is the way to go in this one - back Madrid to book their place in the semi-finals of the Champions League by beating Chelsea in this week’s second leg.
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Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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