June 3, 2023

Stamford Bridge will play host to the UEFA Champions League quarterfinal’s most anticipated match-up on Wednesday. European giant Real Madrid will come to west London to take on the reigning UCL winner, Chelsea. The fixture is the first meeting between the two sides since last season’s semifinals in the same competition. The Blues won last year’s two meetings 3-1 on aggregate en route to their second ever Champions League triumph.

However, this is a much different Blancos team at nearly every level. David Alaba’s presence has made Real Madrid a lot more stubborn at the back, even with Carlo Ancelotti’s attacking play style. Furthermore, Fede Valverde has emerged as a real—no pun intended—talent in the middle of the park. Talisman Karim Benzema and wonderkid Vinicius Jr. are also enjoying their best seasons to date, which is saying something considering the careers they’ve had thus far.

Suffice it to say, Chelsea has its work cut out for it. If Thomas Tuchel wants to continue his run toward defending the most prestigious trophy in club football, he will need to get his side back on track following its embarrassing defeat at the weekend. Luckily, the Blues’ boss has one of the healthiest dressing rooms he’s had all season to choose from midweek.

Here is who Tuchel is expected to name to his starting XI against Real Madrid:

Edouard Mendy (No. 16) Goalkeeper, Senegal

There is a lot of debate surrounding the goalkeeper position ahead of Wednesday’s match. Luckily, there is no question about who Chelsea should give the nod to between the sticks in this contest. Edouard Mendy is the undeniable No. 1 goalkeeper for the Blues and the best in the world, according to many supporters. Real Madrid fans will have their say as they believe former Chelsea shot-stopper Thibaut Courtois takes the crown. Nevertheless, it’s unlikely a lot of goals will be scored with those two guarding the frames in these two matches.

Cesar Azpilicueta (No. 28) Right centerback, Spain

Cesar Azpilicueta recently triggered a one-year extension in his contract with his number of appearances on the season. The inclusion of this clause was another masterstroke from Marina Granovskaia as it goes to show just how reliable the skipper is at age 32. He came under a lot of fire for his subpar performance at the weekend, but he should be spared the criticism as he was ordered to play numerous positions. Azpilicueta played in both legs against Real Madrid last season, appearing both times as a wingback. He’ll be able to defend with less being asked of him this year, which could be perfect as he’s tasked with keeping Vinicius Jr. quiet.

Thiago Silva (No. 6) Centerback, Brazil

If Azpilicueta is ‘Mr. Reliable’ than Thiago Silva is ‘Mr. Consistent’. The 37-year-old has been one of the Blues’ most important players this year, anchoring the back line in 36 matches and counting. The Brazilian defender is turning back time week after week as he continues to show why he is one of this generation’s most complete centerbacks. Many talking points ahead of this tie focus on the experience of Los Blancos, but Silva might just be the most important veteran on either side.

Antonio Rudiger (No. 2) Left centerback, Germany

Antonio Rudiger is amongst the world’s best centerbacks on current form. The transformation he’s undergone since Tuchel took over in SW6 has been remarkable. He went from an injury prone, out-of-favor former Roma defender stuck on the bench at Chelsea to being courted by Europe’s largest clubs. The German international starts when fit, plain and simple. Fingers crossed the club’s ownership situation gets sorted out soon because Rudiger is one player this team cannot afford to lose this summer, especially on a free.

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