There will be something of the immovable force against the immovable force on Tuesday night as the Champions League semifinals begin with what could be a defensive masterclass between Real Madrid and Chelsea at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano. Between them, these two sides have conceded just three goals in eight knockout games thus far this season and both are in outstanding runs of form at both ends of the pitch ahead of their first leg.
A Madrid backline without Raphael Varane, Dani Carvajal and Sergio Ramos allowed just one goal against Liverpool in an exceptional quarterfinal win while it took a spectacular bicycle kick from Mehdi Taremi Porto in the final minute of the last eight tie to end Chelsea's shutout streak throughout the competition. For all the excellence at the back the likes of Karim Benzema, Mason Mount, Vinicius Junior and Christian Pulisic offer the promise of goals at the other end as well in what should be an intriguing tie between two powerhouses of recent Champions League history.
All Champions League games can be viewed live and on demand on Paramount+. Let's get to the predictions:
Real Madrid vs. Chelsea
Rongen's take: Away-day discipline has been a key component of Thomas Tuchel's reign, with Chelsea yet to stumble away from Stamford Bridge in any match since his arrival. Pick: Real Madrid 1, Chelsea 1
Romano's take: Chelsea's defense can be a factor in this leg in what promises to be an extremely balanced match. Of course, the experience of Real Madrid can help to score at least one goal with Benzema in super form. Pick: Real Madrid 1, Chelsea 0
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Echegaray's take: Real Madrid's hopes of retaining their title as La Liga champions suffered a real dent this past weekend after a stalemate against Real Betis. Good news, however, as Eden Hazard returned to the side and made a 77th minute appearance, so he'll be good to go against his former club. For Chelsea, I think it's pretty obvious how Thomas Tuchel will approach this game: Hold and don't concede. Since the West Brom debacle, they have only allowed two goals so defensive protection is clearly the No. 1 priority. They have been very, very impressive. My worry for Chelsea in the Champions League, however, is that they haven't been tested in the knockout stage and with all due respect to Porto and even Atletico Madrid, I think Zinedine Zidane's side is a totally different animal. Los Blancos, as always, are looking to take care of business at home first, so o I see a very tight game, with Real Madrid just about taking it. Pick: Real Madrid 1, Chelsea 0
Johnson's take: I see a tight affair with Zinedine Zidane's men sneaking a one-goal lead ahead of a return leg that gives Thomas Tuchel's side every chance of advancing without an away goal. Advantage: Real. Pick: Real Madrid 1, Chelsea 0
Benge's take: Two of the three best defensive teams in the competition thus far (at least in terms of expected goals conceded) are unlikely to give away much for their opponents to pounce on. There is sufficient quality in Karim Benzema for Real Madrid to believe they will only need one chance, it's just that Chelsea likely won't give it to them. Pick: Real Madrid 0, Chelsea 0
Gonzalez's take: Two of the best defenses go at it in a match that will feel more like a game of chess at times. Who can limit those mistakes at the back? In the end, Karim Benzema fires Real Madrid to a narrow win that doesn't decide the tie. Pick: Real Madrid 1, Chelsea 0
Herrera's take: Real Madrid have turned a shaky group stage start in the Champions League into a deep and fierce run into were they traditionally belong. The attack for Chelsea has been questionable at best, and while their defense could come up clutch, it won't be enough to stop Karim Benzema. Pick: Real Madrid 2, Chelsea 1
Goodman's take: Chelsea have settled into a very successful rhythm under manager Thomas Tuchel, but it's one where the attack come and goes while the defense remains constant. On the road against an enigmatic Real Madrid team look for Chelsea to be extremely careful not to give Karim Benzema any good looks while hoping to create a counterattacking chance or two of their own. Pick: Real Madrid 0, Chelsea 0
Thanks for checking us out, and good luck with your picks!