MADRID: Real Madrid faces arguably the biggest challenge of their season when they travel to Stamford Bridge on Wednesday to play Chelsea in the return leg of their Champions League semifinal.
A 1-1 draw from the first leg played in Valdebebas a week ago means that Real Madrid needs to score at least one goal to have a chance of qualifying for the final and disputing the 14th European Cup in their history.
Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane suffered an injury setback on Monday with the confirmation that central defender Raphael Varane is out with a groin injury, and he joins Dani Carvajal and Lucas Vazquez on the injury list, while Toni Kroos is a doubt along with Fede Valverde who has to give a negative PCR test after having COVID-19.
The big doubt is whether or not Sergio Ramos will return to action two months after a minor knee operation, the Madrid captain has been training with his teammates, but Zidane has to consider the risks of putting him straight back into the side.
If Ramos is back then Madrid could play with three central defenders and either Fernand Mendy or Marcelo and Alvaro Odriozola as wing-backs, but if not then Zidane may opt for a flat back four with Nacho Fernando and Eder Militao in defense.
Eden Hazard started against Osasuna at the weekend and is likely to face his former club, alongside Karim Benzema and either Vinicius Jr or Marco Asensio, while Casemiro and Luka Modric will feature in midfield.
Chelsea dominated the first half a week ago and caused Madrid a lot of problems with their high pressing and rapid counter-attacks. Thomas Tuchel's side has conceded in just five of the 23 games since he replaced Frank Lampard.
Tuchel's big question is who will play in attack, with Kai Havertz and Tammy Abraham challenging Timo Werner to lead the line, but he would do well to remember that Real Madrid has a habit of turning up on the big occasion and although his side will kick off with a slight advantage that could disappear in the time it takes to score a goal. Agencies