Chelsea held in Madrid
If you had told Chelsea fans ahead of kick-off at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano on Tuesday that they would come away with a 1-1 draw to take back to Stamford Bridge, most would likely have been quite pleased.
Real Madrid, after all, are Champions League specialists and have already won the trophy three times under their current boss.
However, when all was said and done in the Spanish capital, those of a Chelsea persuasion were likely left feeling quite aggrieved.
Another Thomas Tuchel masterclass against a big-name boss saw Chelsea dominate Madrid for large periods of the first leg whilst, crucially, limiting them to just a single shot on goal across the 90 minutes.
Here in lies one of the Londoners’ biggest issues under Tuchel. Chelsea, for all their dominance and chances, notched just one goal on the day.
Madrid, on the other hand, scored with their only shot on target, earning them probably an undeserved draw.
Real, though, unlike Chelsea, were in possession of a world-class striker in the form of Karim Benzema.
The Frenchman, who now sits joint 3rd in the all-time Champions League goalscoring charts, had maybe two half-chances on the day, yet he still nearly scored two goals.
The first effort saw Benzema smash a long-range effort off Edouard Mendy’s post. Then, the hitman once again created a chance out of nothing 28 minutes in, turning and smashing home a volley inside the Chelsea six-yard box:
THUNDEROUS FINISH! ⚡️
Benzema smashes the ball home on the turn and volley. Such a clinical strike!
Against the run of play Real Madrid are level… pic.twitter.com/byfE5d9wt6
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) April 27, 2021
Chelsea, on the other hand, had Timo Werner up top on Tuesday, with the gulf in class between the two no.9s at present very much evident in Madrid.
The German was of course a fairly prolific goalscorer at RB Leipzig last term. Since making the move to England, though, Werner is a man seriously devoid of any sort of confidence.
Chelsea fans may have hoped to see that confidence return following his winner against West Ham last weekend. Yet in the very same game, Werner then went on to miss another sitter, much to the dismay of Thomas Tuchel:
— talkSPORT (@talkSPORT) April 24, 2021
And again, in Madrid, the 25-year-old fluffed his lines from six yards out:
Timo Werner missed this … pic.twitter.com/zSj49Akkyz
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) April 27, 2021
Following the Madrid game, Tuchel did appear to let his frustrations with the 25-year-old be known, before looking to move on from the situation:
“He missed a big one in West Ham now he missed another big one here. That does not help, but it also does not help to cry about it or to regret it all the time. It is like this. There are millions of people who have harder things to deal with than chances that you miss, so this is the good thing about sports – nobody cares tomorrow. Today we were sad we were angry at the moment, this is normal.
“He is angry. He may be disappointed. Tomorrow he has a free day and the next day he has to put his chin up. He is a professional guy, a top guy, he works hard. He is in positions and from there on we go.”
Big games need big players
But the Chelsea boss will obviously be well aware that it is those sort of chances that can decide entire ties at this stage in the competition.
Werner’s qualities outside of goalscoring should not be underappreciated, with his blistering pace and ability to play off the last man, a real problem for defences.
However, if Tuchel persists with Werner as Chelsea’s main goalscoring threat this season – which he looks as though he will as Tammy Abraham and Olivier Giroud appear to have been frozen out – then Chelsea could be set to miss out on their second-ever Champions League trophy due to a lack of cutting edge in the final third.
As already highlighted, the use of a top finisher such as Benzema can keep you in/win you games at this level.
Werner, though, had missed more big chances in league and European competition than any other Premier League player following his sitter in Spain:
No Premier League player has missed more Big Chances in league and European competition this season than Timo Werner:
◎ 29 Big Chances
◉ 21 missed
◎ 8 scored
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 27, 2021
Obviously, with just one semi-final leg and a final to play (if they beat Madrid), it is not impossible for Chelsea to win the Champions League this season.
But unlike their first Champions League triumph in 2012, Chelsea do not have someone they can rely on to score big goals in big games.
In 2011/12, Didier Drogba netted six goals and provided two assists in eight CL games, including crucial goals in the last 16 vs Napoli, semi-final vs Barcelona and final vs Bayern Munich.
Werner, on the other hand, has scored just three European goals for the Blues, all of which came in the group stage vs Krasnodar and Stade Rennais.
And even more concerningly, Werner’s six goals in the league this term have to come against smaller sides – two vs Southampton, one vs Burnley, one vs Newcastle, one vs Sheffield United and one vs West Ham.
So, when it comes down to it, when those half-chances make or break your season, it is quite clear that Chelsea currently do not have the man to take them, something Tuchel and co. will no doubt be keen to address in the summer.
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