Chelsea will be looking to put one foot in the final of this season’s UEFA Champions League when they travel to the Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium to face La Liga heavyweights Real Madrid this evening.
The Blues, who progressed to the last-four of the competition for the first time since 2014 by getting the better of Portuguese outfit FC Porto in the last round, will lock horns with the Spanish giants for the first time since 1998 when they met in the UEFA Super Cup.
Since then, football, both in England and abroad, has gone into an unimaginable state, with transfer fees having rocketed, player wages going through the roof and the sport in general adopting a very different feel.
But all of those factors have been driven by one thing and one thing only: money.
Both Chelsea and Madrid have spent massive amounts of money in recent years, signing some of the game’s biggest starts, ranging from the likes of Eden Hazard to Timo Werner and Ferland Mendy to Ben Chilwell.
Last summer, Chelsea were the Premier League’s driving force when it came to spending big money in the transfer market, splashing out more than £220million on seven new recruits, as former head coach Frank Lampard significantly bolstered his squad in an attempt to turn the Blues back into title contenders.
Whilst that plan failed and resulted in Lampard being axed in January, his successor, Thomas Tuchel, has the chance to guide Chelsea to their first Champions League final appearance since 2012.
If that is to happen, Tuchel will need his players to be at full throttle, with Madrid boasting some of the most dangerous and experienced players that the Champions League has to offer.
Whilst Tuchel has no shortage of options available to him this evening, with Croatian star Mateo Kovacic the only confirmed absentee through injury, Kai Havertz will be amongst those looking to wrestle back a starting berth after being named on the bench against West Ham United at the weekend.
Although Havertz’s maiden season in England has not gone as swimmingly as he would have hoped for, scoring just six goals and claiming eight assists in 38 appearances, he has looked lively in recent weeks, being fielded as a false nine.
Whilst Havertz has not hit the same levels at Chelsea so far as the ones he consistently hit at Bayer Leverkusen, Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos, who is expected to return to the starting line-up this evening following an injury lay-off, is fully aware of his fellow countryman’s talents.
“If he continues like this, he’ll be hard to stop,” Kroos told Bild am Sonntag, via Sport Bild, last September. “But there are no guarantees and there are always stumbling blocks in a career.
“Kai is now facing the next step and a new situation. He also has to get used to it first.”
Although Kroos’ admission has come true about there being no guarantees about how any footballer’s career will map out, with Havertz having struggled in his maiden season in England, the Germany international will no doubt be warning his Madrid teammates about the threat Havertz could pose this evening if he is reinstated to the starting line-up by Tuchel.
Considering Havertz has moved to a foreign country and faced the first few months of his time in England with the pandemic ongoing, it is important to factor in that he has not faced the easiest of circumstances, especially when you take into account that he also caught Covid-19 back in November himself.
However, Tuchel recently heaped praise on Havertz and pointed out his need to adapt to the Premier League.
“I’m very happy with his performance, no doubt about his quality his talent and also not about his character,” said Tuchel following the Blues’ 2-0 win over Everton last month.
“He needs to adapt to the Premier League, he needs to be at a club where you play to win every game, where the highest standards are normal. That’s a normal process also for him to adapt to this mentality.
“He showed up between the lines and used his potential to accelerate our game and to increase the touches in the box – and to be responsible for assists and through-balls, and also to take the responsibility to finish himself. And from here on we go.”