Real Madrid vs. Chelsea Champions League Odds, Preview & Analysis: How These European Giants Have Reinvented Themselves (Tuesday, April 27)
David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images. Pictured: Manager Zinedine Zidane of Real Madrid.
Real Madrid vs. Chelsea Odds
|Real Madrid Odds||+133|
|Over/Under||2.5 (+130 / -162)|
|Time||Tuesday, 3 p.m. ET|
|How to Watch||Paramount+|
|Odds as of Monday and via DraftKings.|
Chelsea is known for defensive soccer, having won Premier Leagues under the likes of Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte in recent years.
Real Madrid is getting used to it, embracing it in a post-Cristiano Ronaldo era, in which they are thriving.
These two teams embody a trend that is becoming more prevalent across some of Europe’s elite clubs. There’s an emphasis being put on defending instead of simply dominating and trying to attack your opponent into submission.
Defense wins championships, right? Well, both of these clubs hope that championship is the rabbit-eared trophy known as the European Cup.
Last season, Real Madrid averaged 1.67 expected goals per game in La Liga. This campaign, it’s 1.66 so far through 33 games. In Ronaldo’s last season, 2017-18, Real averaged 2.19. They finished third in La Liga, although they did win the Champions League.
This is a different Real Madrid team, and kudos to Zinedine Zidane for adjusting well to life without Ronaldo.
The midfield is still dominant. With Casemiro doing the dirty work, Toni Kroos dropping deep to pick up possession and Luka Modric finding space between opponents’ midfield and defense, no club in the world has a better trio in the middle of the park when they’re all fit.
The defense, though, is different. This season, you could easily make the case that Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane aren’t in Real’s best lineup. Eder Militao is making it easy for Los Blancos to potential say, “Adios,” to Ramos, while Nacho Fernandez is a versatile and reliable defender who can play any position in the backline.
Militao and Nacho’s containment of Liverpool over two legs was sensational. With Casemiro sometimes operating as a third center back, the Reds never seemed like much of a threat.
Like Chelsea, Real Madrid can afford to hold bodies back and put an emphasis on defense because of world-class playmakers.
Chelsea is not going to see much of the ball against Real because the advantage in midfield clearly goes to Zidane’s team. Jorginho and N’Golo Kante will be focused on pressuring Kroos and keeping track of Modric.
The focus for Tuchel will be to not get beaten on the counter by the trio of Vinicius Junior, Karim Benzema and Marco Asensio. I don’t see how Eden Hazard can start this game over either Vinicius or Asensio given how well the duo played against Liverpool in the previous round.
Benzema is the key, moving all around the field to create space for Vinicius and Modric going forward. Kroos sits back a bit more than in past years, which is key in giving Real more defensive balance when the fullbacks make forward runs. Madrid might sit back even more against Chelsea if Nacho is forced into duty at left back, though.
Since the start of 2021, Real have gone over 2.5 goals in 11 of their 23 games. They hold so much more of the ball than Chelsea and play in a far inferior league, so they’re naturally going to score more goals.
However, the emphasis is clearly on the clean sheet, having kept nine of them in their last 16 matches. And five of them came against Atalanta, Liverpool and Barcelona.
Zidane recognizes that Ronaldo’s departure allows more of Real’s recognizable names to flourish. The presence of Vinicius out wide gives him an on-ball threat to break down defenses with at least three players going into the box.
Since Thomas Tuchel took over, Chelsea have gone under 2.5 goals in 18 of their 21 matches. The Blues went from an identity crisis under Frank Lampard to a defensive juggernaut under their new German coach.
Chelsea are the personification of the new way many of Europe’s elite are going about attacking this season. It has some quality defenders, but none that you would consider to be one of the best in the world. Staying organized and compact is the key.
So, why can the Blues afford to do this? They have some of the best attackers in the world. Unlike teams like Burnley or Newcastle United, Chelsea can sit back and wait its turn to hit on the counter, knowing any attacker it has on the field can produce a moment of quality that unlocks a defense at any moment.
The 3-4-2-1 formation that Tuchel plays also allows great flexibility with the wingbacks, allowing them to get forward when possible with defending staying the first priority.
Chelsea’s attack consists of three of the following players most of the time: Kai Havertz, Mason Mount, Christian Pulisic, Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech. Havertz thrives in a withdrawn striker role, where he can either drift into space between the opposition’s defense and midfield or make a run into the box.
Pulisic is the only true winger of the bunch, although Ziyech’s left foot has proved very useful out right. Werner has pace that can unleash a counter at any moment, and Mount can play all over the front three and should be a focal point for both club and country for years to come.
Most teams in the world don’t have that type of playmaking and pace, so they can’t afford to put the type of emphasis on defending that Chelsea can while also trying to win the game.
The difference between Chelsea and Atletico Madrid in the Round of 16 was the Blues’ willingness to go forward, especially in the second leg. Getting a win in their away fixture was key because Atletico are not built to play from behind. Diego Simeone’s 4-4-2 formation is rigid and doesn’t offer the flexibility that Chelsea have.
Atletico have been the defensive juggernauts of Europe for the past seven or eight years. Now, though, other teams are taking their defensive emphasis and putting their own little twist on it.
Chelsea might not be as tough and gritty as Atletico, but the reason they’re still alive in the Champions League is their willingness to attack.
What to Expect
This is going to be a defensive battle, so it wouldn’t shock me if the first leg was a 1-0 result either way. Given the Blues’ preference to sit back and defend, a clean sheet and home win for Real Madrid would be devastating to the Blues.
Oddsmakers agree with the emphasis on defense, with total of under 2.5 goals sitting in the neighborhood of -165 odds as of late Monday. It wouldn’t shock me if that number kept going up.