The first leg had ended 1-1 in Spain, and two goals in the second leg by Timo Werner and Mason Mount sent Chelsea into a Champions League final showdown with Manchester City as they claimed a 2-0 win over Real Madrid for a 3-1 aggregate triumph at Stamford Bridge.
Zidane (Real Madrid coach) said after Real Madrid’s defeat to Chelsea “They deserved the win. We tried but they deserve to advance to the final. We can be very proud of ourselves and I’m very proud of the players” and Mason Mount said “I can’t put it into words at the moment. It was a great performance. We should have had about five, but the most important thing is that we won…”
This tactical analysis will break down both sides’ tactics (Tuchel – Zidane) and explain how Tuchal’s tactics made such a big difference to this match.
Thomas Tuchel started the second leg with the 3-4-2-1 formation, which worked so brilliantly in the first leg too. In fact, he didn’t make many changes from the starting XI. Édouard Mendy started in goal. His backline men were Andreas Christensen, Thiago Silva and Antonio Rüdiger. In midfield, César Azpilicueta, N’Golo Kanté, Jorginho and Ben Chilwell from right to left. Mason Mount, Kai Havertz after his strong performance against Fulham over the weekend and Timo Werner were the attackers.
On the other hand, Zidane started the match with a 3-5-2 formation due to Dani Carvajal’s injury. Thibaut Courtois in goal, the defenders were Nacho Fernández, Éder Militão and Ramos, Ferland Mendy and Vinícius Júnior were the wing-backs. In midfield, Casemiro started at the #6, Luka Modrić as the right-centre midfielder and Toni Kroos at left-sided regista. The forwards were Eden Hazard as the nominal left-forward (with a free role), Benzema in the centre.
Tuchal’s pressing structure and their defensive style
The pressure of the Chelsea players was calm and organized, the Chelsea players didn’t drift into high pressure on Real Madrid’s defence in order not to give time and space for Real Madrid midfielders to create chances, when Real Madrid had possession in their half, Chelsea’s defensive formation was a 5-2-3 with the wing-backs dropping off and the wide attackers joining Werner up front.
The blues closed the central spaces when they were out of possession. They were also putting high pressure on Real Madrid’s wing-backs on both sides of the pitch and the half-spaces, especially on the right side, because Vinícius as a wing-back created a lot of gaps between Real Madrid’s lanes in the build-up phase.
Chelsea wing-backs pressed their Real Madrid counterparts (who usually stayed quite high) if they dropped back. Here we can see in the below image, Ben Chilwell pressing Vinícius Júnior since Ferland Mendy usually stayed forward, and they managed to get the ball from the Real Madrid players.
Chelsea’s Pressing succeeded due to the holding midfielders Kanté and Jorginho, the duo worked well in tandem, Jorginho with Kanté switching the ball between them, Kanté was able to immediately shift across and Jorginho reciprocated by dropping in to protect the central space. Kante’s ability to cover ground so quickly allowed Chelsea players to protect the centre of the pitch as they pressed, and also quickly turn this press into a counter-attack; Kanté was alert to any slightly under-hit or wayward passes and was ready to press these if the opportunity arose.
The effort of this duo, Jorginho and Kanté throughout the match also shows in the statistics, Jorginho with 6 interceptions and N’Golo Kante’s four showed how well the central pair disrupted Real Madrid’s build-up play. Mount’s joint team-high tally of 3 tackles demonstrated the Blues’ desire to shut them down all over the pitch. As in the picture below from the (whoscored) site this image shows the movements of both players on the pitch to cover the ball.
Chelsea targeted Real Madrid players between the lines, and their transitions
Chelsea’s quick start saw them produce enough chances to score a goal in the first half, but poor finishing and Courtois’ heroics kept the score line tight. With just a couple of exceptions, the EPL side were fantastic in defence. That’s a testament to the discipline of the players and the tactical brilliance of their German coach Tuchel.
Chelsea players found a lot of happiness attacking Real Madrid between the lines. When they engaged in positional attacks, Timo Werner, Havertz and Mount coordinated their movements with each other. It was typically the German who would push forward to stretch the backline and disconnect them from the midfield. Havertz and Mount would then oscillate between the backline and space between the lines.
As we mentioned above, Chelsea players closed the central spaces when they were out of possession with 4-3-2-1 formation, they closed the central channels to force Real Madrid players to switch the play wide, then it was easy to recover the ball again, as shown below.
Chelsea players were able to keep their defensive shape compact and make it difficult for Madrid players to get into central channels. However, there was a definite flatness to Madrid’s attack on the evening. When they were able to get the ball into the central channel and into a player in space, there was very little in the way of attacking movement.
Here is another example of Chelsea players closing central channels and forcing Real Madrid players to drift to the sides, Chelsea players stacked up in the defensive stage in 4-3-2-1 formation, in close lines in the depth to force Modrić to pass the ball to the right half-space towards Vinícius, this pass to the half-space here have led to Chelsea’s centre-backs quickly regaining possession from the isolated forward.
Chelsea players were most threatening on transitions, using Werner and Havertz pace on the counter-attack to create goal-scoring opportunities. Werner dropped deep to support in the defensive phase, he is a terrific option to get on the ball in transition and drive forward, turning defence into attack very quickly.
Both Havertz and Mount had an effective role in transitions, whilst with Kanté behind this front three and Chilwell on the left, Chelsea players were not short of players who can burst forward to support the counter. Chelsea’s players have been very dangerous in transitions, Werner and Havertz were the ball progressors, Mount, Kanté, and Chilwell were also pushing forward to create density against Madrid’s defenses, as we can see in the picture below.
Kanté also had an influential role in the transition. Here for the second goal, he entered the box to be an option for passing. He was able to attract Madrid’s players and create a space for Mount in which he moved with his freedom and scored the second goal.
If you had told Chelsea fans at the beginning of 2021, that they would reach the Champions League final, they wouldn’t have believed you. Nevertheless, here we are, and not only do they deserve to be there, but there is a very real possibility they will upset Manchester City in the final too. Due to the first leg result, Thomas Tuchel and the Chelsea players had the advantage, having scored a vital away goal, but they could never be comfortable until Mason Mount finally booked their plane ticket to Turkey.
Chelsea deserved no less than a 3-1 aggregate win against Real Madrid. Across the course of the tie Real Madrid were consistently inferior by a significant margin and it was only the profligacy of Chelsea across both legs that kept this from being a humbling for Zidane’s players.
Real Madrid had their moments to score in the first half through Benzema but twice he was denied by goalkeeper Édouard Mendy. After the interval Chelsea looked by far the more likely to score what would have been the tie’s decisive fourth goal, Havertz and Thiago Silva flashing headers slightly too high. Mason Mount should also have scored and booked the Chelsea plane ticket to Istanbul.