If it’s Carlo Ancelotti you’re asking…
“Football changes and players evolve. Benzema is a forward for modern football, the best striker in modern football. He not only scores, he helps the team and is really important. The presence of these champions is helpful for young players as well.”
Benzema: Best in the world?
Is there a better player on the planet right now than Karim Benzema?
The Frenchman has scored hat-tricks in back-to-back Champions League matches, rescuing Real Madrid in their remarkable turnaround against PSG and then destroying Chelsea to leave them needing something similar tonight.
In all, Benzema has 37 goals in 37 club appearances so far this season, with 13 assists chucked in for good measure. He’s got 11 in eight in this competition.
Here’s how the bookies price things up tonight…
- Real Madrid to win 7/4
- Chelsea to win 6/4
- Draw 5/2
- Real Madrid to qualify 1/10
- Chelsea to qualify 11/2
Odds provided by Betfair.
Loftus-Cheek starts in midfield
Plenty to go at in that Chelsea team, then, and after seeing his midfield overrun a week ago, Thomas Tuchel has packed it tonight with N’Golo Kante, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Mateo Kovacic all starting in a 4-3-3.
The back four means there is no place in the starting lineup for captain Cesar Azpilicueta, Marcos Alonso and Reece James getting the nod.
In attack, Mason Mount, Kai Havertz and Timo Werner will be charged with scoring the goals to turn this tie on its head.
Chelsea team news
Chelsea XI: Mendy; James, Silva, Rudiger, Alonso; Loftus-Cheek, Kante, Kovacic; Mount, Havertz, Werner.
Subs: Kepa, Bettinelli, Christensen, Azpilicueta, Sarr, Chalobah, Jorginho, Saul, Ziyech, Pulisic, Vale
We should have the Chelsea team news confirmed in around 15 minutes’ time…
Casemiro: We don’t buy Tuchel comments
I mentioned earlier that Thomas Tuchel had pretty much written this tie off as over after the first leg, but Real Madrid appear to think the German was playing mind games with those comments and midfielder Casemiro is having none of it.
“We won’t fall for that,” the Brazilian said yesterday. “We played probably what was the best 90 minutes of our season in London last week and took a major step closer to qualifying for the semi-final but we can’t get overly confident.
“We all heard what Thomas Tuchel said. We don’t buy it. We know that it will be a tough game. They are defending champions and we won’t take this game lightly, I can assure you of that.
“We’ll need our fans to be there and support us from the beginning. We can’t get overconfident and need our fans to create a great atmosphere so we can advance to the semi-finals.”
Kovacic: Modric so good he could play into forties
Mateo Kovacic started on the bench last week for Chelsea before being sent on at half-time by Thomas Tuchel, which meant he got both sideline and on-pitch views of the masterclass put on by his Croatian teammate Luka Modric.
The Real Madrid midfielder, now 36 years young, ran the show and Kovacic believes he has plenty of football left in the tank.
“He was always as good as he is now, for me as far as I know in the last five, six or seven years he’s on the same way level, which is amazing,” Kovacic said.
“Why is that good? It is because he loves football so much. He lives it every day. He’s a professional and if he keeps going like this, I see him still playing three, four more years on such a high level.”
Nacho in for Militao in only Madrid change
So, there is just the one change to the Real Madrid XI that was so impressive in the first leg six days ago as Nacho comes in at centre-back in place of the suspended Eder Militao.
Fede Valverde keeps his place in attack, meaning the likes of Gareth Bale, Marco Asensio and Rodrigo all have to be content with a place on the bench.
Real Madrid team news
Real Madrid XI: Courtois, Carvajal, Alaba, Nacho, Mendy, Casemiro, Kroos, Modric, Valverde, Vinicius Jr., Benzema
Subs: Lunin, Fuidias, Marcelo, Vasquez, Mariano, Ceballos, Camavinga, Asensio, Jovic, Bale, Rodrygo, Marin