Champions League second leg quarter-final clash…  Can Chelsea perform magic against Real tonight?

Facing the unenvi­able task of trying to record a three-goal win over the reigning European champi­ons, Chelsea host Real Madrid in the second leg of their Champions League quar­ter-final tonight.

The teams renew hostilities at Stamford Bridge with Los Blancos boasting a 2-0 advantage from their Bernabeu showdown, and Frank Lampard’s homecoming has done little to end the Blues’ blues.

• Benzema - Real Madrid
• Benzema – Real Madrid

There is no shame in losing to the European champions in their own backyard, and Lampard could have taken a few positives from his side’s valiant efforts in the Spanish capital, where strikes from Karim Benzema and Marco Asen­sio led to a predictable victory for those in white.

However, the under-perform­ing Blues were played off the park by Brighton & Hove Albion in Saturday’s Premier League clash – at one stage conceding 70 per cent possession to the soaring Seagulls – as Conor Gallagher’s deflected strike was cancelled out by Danny Welbeck’s header and Julio Enci­so’s rocket.

A 2-1 scoreline flattered Chelsea, according to Lampard, as the interim Blues boss admitted that his side were fortunate not to lose by more, and the 44-year-old now boasts an unsightly record of three defeats from three games in charge; Todd Boehly cut a deject­ed figure as he was given an earful from the Stamford Bridge faithful, as Lampard’s dream return turns into a nightmare.

Now winless in six successive matches since a 3-1 triumph over Leicester City under Graham Potter, Gallagher’s fortunate strike against Brighton at least managed to end a four-game streak without a goal for Chelsea, who did reverse a first-leg deficit against Borussia Dortmund at Stamford Bridge to progress to the last eight.

The West London giants have now advanced from five of their last seven Champions League ties in which they have lost the first leg away from home, but they have failed to win any of their last four Stamford Bridge games since seeing off BVB, and historical omens will count for nought unless Lampard’s side can suddenly find their best shooting boots.

Potentially playing his way into a contract renewal, Real’s bit-part winger,Asensio, came up with another telling contribution in Los Blancos’ trip to Cadiz at the week­end, a few days after drilling home his side’s second against Chelsea.

Ancelotti understandably rang the changes for Saturday evening’s clash with the bottom-half outfit, and patience was the name of the game for the La Liga champions, but Nacho Fernandez’s strike preceded another Asensio effort to keep their fanciful hopes of domes­tic glory alive.

A return to winning ways in the top flight allowed Real Madrid to cut the gap to Barcelona down to 10 points, but La Blaugrana have the chance to respond against Ge­tafe on Sunday, and Ancelotti’s men would be forgiven for prioritising continental glory as the season approaches its home straight.

From their 19 Champions League knockout ties in which they have won the first leg by at least two clear goals, Real Madrid have progressed from 18 of them – only falling to eventual runners-up Monaco in 2003-04 – and even then Los Blancos were only knocked out courtesy of the now-abolished away goals rule after a 5-5 aggre­gate draw.

A sixth successive Champions League knockout win would also see Real Madrid set a new continen­tal record, which have been bread and butter for the 14-time Euro­pean champions, and their visit to Stamford Bridge 12 months ago ended in a 1-3 triumph – avenging a 2-0 loss away to Chelsea in the 2020-21 semis. —SportsMole

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