Tonight sees Chelsea take on Real Madrid for the first time in the Champions League but the Premier League outfit have far more links with the Spanish giants than many people realize.
From past European battles to shared players and managers, not to mention a previous fixture at this evening’s makeshift venue, here we (Chelsea official site) explore eight things you may not have known about Chelsea’s history with Real Madrid.
A date of destiny
The date of Chelsea’s first showpiece European final is the same as that of the club’s greatest triumph on the continent. On that, 19 May 2012 will forever be a landmark day in the long and storied history of Chelsea Football Club and it was exactly 41 years previously that Chelsea faced Real Madrid in the European Cup Winners’ Cup final.
After Peter Osgood’s opener, members of the Greek military were transiting the blue and white ribboned trophy around the perimeter of the field before a last-minute equaliser forced an unprecedented replay. Thankfully, Osgood notched again two days later at the same stadium and, along with John Dempsey, those goals were enough to secure Chelsea’s maiden European title.
In the dugout
Despite three previous competitive meetings between the sides, this is the first not to be played on neutral territory. Chelsea and Real Madrid first met in the 1970/71 European Cup Winners’ Cup final, which was held in Athens, as was the replay two days later, while their 1998 Super Cup clash was in Monaco. The Blues have yet to be beaten.
Real appointed three former Chelsea managers in a row between 2010 and 2015 – Jose Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti and Rafael Benitez. Another former custodian of the Stamford Bridge dugout, Guus Hiddink, was manager in the Spanish capital in the late 1990s.
Even though Chelsea have yet to play at the Bernabeu, a Chelsea Legends team did take to the field there in the summer of 2019, when they were narrowly beaten in a 5-4 thriller. Raul, Fernando Morientes and Christian Karembeu featured for the hosts, while Gianfranco Zola, Marcel Desailly and Andriy Shevchenko ran out for the Blues.
Given their past allegiances with both clubs, Ricardo Carvalho and Claude Makelele pulled on both the famous white and blue strips.
This Champions League semi-final is being played at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano, a 6,000-capacity stadium that forms part of Real’s training complex, as the Bernabeu undergoes renovation work. However, for one of the visiting contingent, it won’t be their first appearance at the reigning La Liga champions’ temporary home.
Reece James was part of a Chelsea Under-19s side that were 4-2 winners at Valdebebas in a 2017/18 UEFA Youth League quarter-final tie. Joe Edwards, now working with Thomas Tuchel as assistant coach, was the team’s head coach, while former Real midfielder Guti was in the opposite dugout.
Although the journey home was celebratory, there was less for Ethan Ampadu to celebrate as the defender nursed a broken ankle sustained in the game. The young Blues went on to the final but were beaten by Real’s bitter rivals Barcelona.
Blue and whites
Eight players have moved directly between Chelsea and Real, the first of whom were Geremi and Claude Makelele switching Spain for west London in the summer of 2003.
Arjen Robben headed in the opposite direction four years later, while Eden Hazard’s departure from Stamford Bridge at the end of the 2018/19 campaign was the most recent transfer activity between the two clubs. In addition, Michael Essien spent a season on loan in Madrid in 2012/13.
Drawing the crowds in Michigan
This fixture drew a record attendance for a Chelsea game when Antonio Conte took his players to the USA for a pre-season tour in 2016.
Hazard netted a brace in Michigan but it was Real who came out on top with a 3-2 victory in ‘the Big House’ in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The attendance was an impressive 105,826.
While a trip to Madrid will resonate with many of our Spanish contingent, there is one member of the Chelsea squad whose links with Real go back generations. Marcos Alonso Imaz was the grandfather of our current left-back and formed part of the Madrid team that won the first five European Cups between 1956 and 1961, scoring in the first ever final.
His son, Marcos Alonso Pena, was also a full Spain international but represented Real’s great rivals Atletico and Barcelona at club level, though the nearest he came to Champions League glory was in the 1986 final when he missed a penalty in defeat to Steaua Bucharest.
The third generation Alonso came through the youth academy at Real and played just two minutes of senior football with the Bernabeu side before his switch to England over a decade ago.
The quest to lay his own footprints in Europe’s premier club competition continues tonight as this famous footballing family bids to reach another showpiece final.