Soccer Champions League - Play-Offs Prediction
Chelsea vs Real Madrid - Match Preview
⚽ 18 April 2023 - 19:00 GMT +0
Chelsea will require one of their greatest-ever European performances if they are to overhaul a two-goal UEFA Champions League (UCL) quarter-final deficit to Real Madrid. At the weekend, manager Frank Lampard described Saturday’s lacklustre 2-1 defeat to Brighton as “not a Chelsea performance” which would be far from encouraging as they look to end a run of six winless competitive results (D2, L4)!
Last week’s 2-0 defeat at the Bernabéu left them struggling to save their season with a run to UCL glory, as interim boss Lampard bids to emulate Roberto Di Matteo’s feat of 2011/12. He doesn’t have to look back far for inspiration as even his predecessor Graham Potter oversaw Chelsea winning the second leg of their Round of 16 games to progress against Borussia Dortmund despite losing 1-0 on the road.
That should ensure Madrid travels with no hint of complacency, even if they are in fine fettle following their comfortable first-leg win. With a 36th La Liga title seemingly out of reach, they were able to rest players against Cádiz on Saturday (W 2-0). However, they could be sweating on the fitness of key men Toni Kroos and Vinícius Júnior, both of whom were injury absentees.
With last month’s remarkable 5-2 win over Liverpool fresh in their memory, Los Blancos have now won three of their last four clashes with English clubs outside of Spain (L1) including last season’s 3-1 victory here. So don’t expect the reigning champions to hold back after they netted in each of their last seven UCL fixtures on foreign soil (W4, D1, L2).
📋 Key battle: Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga has a clean sheet against Madrid to his name - back in December 2017 for Athletic Bilbao - but he’s got his work cut out to repeat that here, as only Lionel Messi has scored more UCL goals against English clubs than Karim Benzema (20), who found the net four times in Madrid’s last three European fixtures.
⚡ Hot streak: Madrid has won the last four European ties in which they won the first leg 2-0 at home.
Napoli vs AC Milan - Match Preview
⚽ 18 April 2023 - 19:00 GMT +0
Despite a 0-0 draw against Verona at the weekend, Napoli remains on course to take the Serie A (SA) crown away from AC Milan this season. Despite that, the Blues may be feeling very much like the inferior half of this matchup in recent times. They lost a home league H2H meeting earlier in the month by an astonishing 4-0 margin, then failed to dish out any revenge in the first leg of this UEFA Champions League (UCL) quarter-final tie last week when they went down 1-0 at the San Siro.
Consequently, Milan could now become the first team to beat Napoli three times in one season since Lazio back in 1994/95. Despite their recent H2H setbacks, the hosts do boast a proud home record in this competition, avoiding defeat in each of their last 12 UCL games at Diego Armando Maradona Stadium (W9, D3). Notably, all four matches here in this year’s edition of the competition delivered victories.
While Milan earned themselves what could be a crucial lead going into this second leg, manager Stefano Pioli admitted there was some “regret” that his side couldn’t extend their lead late in the first game following André-Frank Zambo Anguissa’s red card. There would have also been some further frustration that they weren’t able to strengthen their position in the Serie A top four following a 1-1 draw at Bologna at the weekend.
While their goal was breached in that clash, robust defensive displays have laid the foundations for Milan’s impressive UCL run this season. They have shut out their opponents in each of their last five UCL matches - their best consecutive run of clean sheets since 2004/05 when they went all the way to the competition’s final.
📋 Players to watch: Although he’s been without a goal since mid-March, Piotr Zieliński has been involved in five goals (G3, A2) in his last four home UCL appearances for Napoli. On a similar note, Milan’s Rafael Leão has scored five of his last six competitive goals on the road, including two at this venue earlier this month.
⚡ Hot streak: Napoli has been eliminated from their last ten UCL knockout ties after losing the first leg.
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