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Thursday, April 7, 2022

Carlo Ancelotti outwits Thomas Tuchel to leave Chelsea major tactical conundrum vs Real Madrid

  As Chelsea fell to defeat against Real Madrid in the Champions League, it was clear despite the Blues' domination that Karim Benzem...

 

As Chelsea fell to defeat against Real Madrid in the Champions League, it was clear despite the Blues' domination that Karim Benzema's hat-trick did not flatter the victors. Thomas Tuchel's side were efficiently punished in areas they were not up to speed as the Frenchman and Vinicius Junior cut through Chelsea's lines.

A frustrating evening leaves Tuchel will a number of issues to resolve before the trip to Spain next week, and precious time to fix them, with Southampton to consider in the Premier League first.

 The Blues were light in the middle of the pitch in the opening 45 minutes but it was also clear to see the struggles Andreas Christensen had on a wet evening .

The Denmark international returned to the side for the first time following injury, alongside Reece James who made his first start since his impressive performance against Burnley. It was a combination that allowed Vinicius plenty of room to operate in. Tuchel noted: "Yes, it is my mistake."

Christensen was hooked at half time alongside N'Golo Kante as the Blues changed formation but Tuchel believes there were other issues too. He added:

"We changed the formation and wanted to turn things around. I think personally there was enough that we could hurt them but we were so far off our level in everything the game demands: tactically, individually, shape, stiffness in challenges."


It may have been Chelsea's right side that looked predominantly exploited but Carlo Ancelotti's focus was on the opposite flank. Despite being a central midfielder, Federico Valverde operated wide on the right to help relinquish the threat of the Blues' wing-back.

“We played with the same system as usual," said Ancelotti. "The only difference was to have Valverde more focused on their left-wing-back. We then had Carvajal a little more inside to try to control Pulisic and Mount. Valverde did very well.

 It might have looked like a back five at times, but it all depended on the position of Azpilicueta, as Valverde always kept an eye on him. If Azpilicueta stayed deep then Valverde played as a forward. If not, Valverde held back.”

Azpilicueta's natural inclination is a more defensive role but the balance of attack from the wing-backs was heavily favoured to James' wing, which may have added to the gap between the England international and Christensen.

Despite his experience on the left side of his defence, Chelsea's captain was playing in an unfamiliar role having been mostly utilised on the right this term, and was more easily quelled in his ambition to move forwards.

To see the wing-back areas as problematic is particularly worrying, given they have so often been Chelsea's greatest strength this season.

 Marcos Alonso was not trusted to take on the role he naturally fits in, perhaps due to Azpilicueta's greater defensive qualities, while Ben Chilwell, the player who saw success against Los Blancos last season, is out for the rest of the season.

 Chilwell was able to play high up the pitch against Vinicius on that occasion, and Zinedine Zidane was forced to substitute the Brazilian.

Azpilicueta played on the right in the two legs last season, with a stern defensive task against Eden Hazard and Vinicius in the respective legs, so Tuchel will have much to consider when producing another wing-back combination in Madrid.

Whether Alonso could cause greater pressure against such a high quality side remains to be seen, or perhaps Tuchel could opt for Azpilicueta and James to swap wings to help enforce a more secure connection on the right. There will be much to consider and, missing a player the calibre of Chilwell, no easy answer.

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