Real Madrid. The defeat ended their hopes of progressing to the semi-finals of the Champions League. The London club’s season has been riddled with issues, and the exit from the tournament means that they will not be participating in Europe’s top club competition next year. This leaves them with little to play for in the final weeks of the campaign, especially with a top-four finish in the Premier League looking unlikely.
Despite spending £600 million under Todd Boehly’s leadership in the past year, Chelsea’s current state is unacceptable, especially given that they were European Cup champions just two years ago. Significant changes are needed to fix this situation and rebuild the club.
In the second leg of the fixture at Santiago Bernabeu, Rodrygo scored two goals in the second half, leading Real Madrid to a 2-0 victory and doubling their aggregate lead. While Carlo Ancelotti’s team faced some challenges, Frank Lampard’s team struggled with poor finishing yet again, despite the significant amount of money spent to assemble their team. The loss highlights the need for Chelsea to focus on improving their finishing skills and creating more scoring opportunities.
The hero of the match was Rodrygo,
the forward from Brazil who played a crucial role in the Champions League fixture against Chelsea last year.
In the current game, his goals were just as crucial, even if they lacked the drama of his previous performance.
For the first goal, Rodrygo expertly used Madrid’s only counter-attack opportunity of the game and ended up with a chance he simply could not miss, hitting Ronaldo’s signature “Siuuu” celebration in front of the scowling Chelsea fans.
He struck again 20 minutes later, after Federico Valverde set him up with a superb run through four Chelsea defenders.
Karim Benzema did not perform at his best, and Real Madrid needed a new hero to continue their Champions League success.
Rodrygo stepped up to be that hero.
LOSER: Todd Boehly
Todd Boehly, the co-owner of Chelsea, has spent a staggering £600 million in the past 12 months, yet the club will have no Champions League football to look forward to next season.
This is a damning indictment of his first year in charge of the club, as his reckless spending and poor decision-making have left the Blues on the outside looking in at Europe’s elite for at least the next year.
To illustrate the point, Lampard chose to leave out Joao Felix, Mykhailo Mudryk, and Raheem Sterling, opting for a 5-4-1 formation, while the expensive flops that Boehly has brought to the club watched from the sidelines.
Chelsea are already up against Financial Fair Play regulations, and the lack of Champions League money next season will hurt them. This could lead to more players leaving this summer than they would perhaps like.
Furthermore, signing players of the caliber of Jude Bellingham and Victor Osimhen is likely off the table now. Given the strength of the Premier League, there is no guarantee that Chelsea will be back in the Champions League after just one year away either.
This is set to be a long road back for Boehly’s Blues, and the co-owner must take much of the blame for their current state.
WINNER: Thibaut Courtois
Thibaut Courtois was the hero of the match for Real Madrid with his remarkable save against Marc Cucurella. Although he is known for producing great saves in every match he plays for Madrid, this particular stop was exceptional. Cucurella had a clear opportunity to score from just six yards out, but Courtois quickly moved across the line to block his attempt.
After making the crucial save, Courtois turned to the Chelsea fans who had been taunting him all night and kissed the Madrid badge. His heroics not only prevented a Chelsea goal but also demoralized the home crowd.
If Courtois had failed to stop Cucurella’s shot, the outcome of the tie could have been different. A goal would have brought Chelsea within one on aggregate, giving them a boost of confidence for the second half. However, the Belgian’s save knocked the life out of Stamford Bridge, and Real Madrid went on to advance to their 11th semi-final in 13 years.
With more big moments to come, Courtois has once again proven his worth for Real Madrid.
LOSER: N’Golo Kante
N’Golo Kante was the unfortunate loser of the match on Tuesday. Though Kante is an exceptional footballer, his finishing skills are not his strongest attribute, and this deficiency showed at the worst possible time for Chelsea. Lampard deployed Kante as one of the more attacking midfielders in the box midfield formation. Kante had two chances in prime positions inside the penalty area to give Chelsea the lead on the night, but he failed to convert both of them. He missed the Blues’ first real chance by slicing his effort wide of Thibaut Courtois’ left-hand post. Later in the second half, Kante had the goal at his mercy again but crashed his effort against Eder Militao, who made a block he knew almost nothing about. Moments later, Madrid scored their first goal, and the tie was pretty much over. Kante’s contract is up this summer, so this might be the last we see of him playing in the Champions League for the Blues.
WINNER: Manchester City
Who can really stop City at this point?
Despite their composure, this Madrid side doesn’t look like the fearsome unit that counter-attacked their way to a Champions League win last year. They kept the ball well here and created chances out of almost nothing, but their signature clinical finishing was missing at times. Benzema, in particular, lacked conviction, while Luka Modric showed signs of mortality with some misplaced passes.
On the other side of the draw, AC Milan knocked out Napoli, which makes their path to a long-coveted Champions League win easier for City to plot. Though there are no easy victories in this competition, Pep Guardiola has a tendency to outthink himself. This looks like a golden opportunity for City to finally break their European duck.
LOSER: Chelsea’s shooting drills
The Chelsea team seems to be struggling to score goals, and their poor finishing was evident in their match against Madrid. The person in charge of overseeing the team’s shooting drills needs to be fired as the Blues are averaging less than one goal per game this season. They have only managed to score one goal in six games since the March international break, which was a heavily-deflected effort by Conor Gallagher against Brighton.
During the match against Madrid, the Blues missed a number of half-chances and finished weakly or straight at the Madrid goalkeeper. N’Golo Kante missed two opportunities to give the Blues the lead, and Marc Cucurella also failed to beat Thibaut Courtois with a shot. Even when Mykhailo Mudryk was sent clean through on goal late in the game, he still couldn’t score, dragging his shot wide of the goal.
With games against all of the Premier League’s top four still, to come before the season ends, Chelsea’s inability to score goals is concerning. If they can’t improve their finishing, the remaining six weeks of the campaign will be long and difficult for them.