Chelsea were beaten 2-0 at the hands of Real Madrid on Wednesday night in the first-leg of their Champions League quarter-final after goals from Karim Benzema and Marco Asensio
Going into the game, nobody really expected Chelsea to get anything at the Santiago Bernabeu. Did they?
Well, not this Chelsea side anyway. As brutal as it sounds, it’s the reality at the moment. That’s summed up by N’Golo Kante starting his fourth consecutive match under four different head coaches. Things are not right at the moment.
It doesn’t take a genius to work that out. Real Madrid are European royalty and for a reason. That was showcased on Wednesday night. It was always going to be. Chelsea’s job was to make it as hard as humanly possible for Los Blancos and ensure the tie wasn’t over by the time they fly to London next week.
To be fair to Chelsea, it’s not over. But the probable truth is Real Madrid aren’t done scoring. Their attacking players, particularly Karim Benzema and Vinicius Jr, are just too good not to find some sort of joy at Stamford Bridge. For the Blues to qualify for the semi-finals, it would have to be a virtually perfect and faultless second-leg performance under the lights in west London.
Chelsea had chances in the first leg. The Blues had seven shots, with three of them on target. That’s not enough, no matter who the opposition are, but there were opportunities to score.
The three big ones came from Joao Felix, Raheem Sterling and Mason Mount. Felix’s was the first. The 23-year-old ran clean through on goal on what was a really promising Chelsea counter-attack, but he decided to take his touch out wide rather than cut in for a better opportunity.
It was the sign of someone who isn’t a true centre-forward. And that is the case. The problem with Felix is, for all of the talent and potential he has, and there is tonnes of it, he is yet to establish a position where he plays every week. He is similar to Kai Havertz in that respect. Felix then dragged the ball wider than he should have and ended up hitting a pretty tame effort straight at Thibaut Courtois.
That in itself isn’t the sole reason Chelsea were beaten by a far superior Real Madrid side but it kind of set the tone for the rest of the game. There was no real confidence at any point that Felix would run through and open the scoring for Chelsea. That’s where the side are at right now. It was actually the fourth consecutive game where the Blues have failed to score.
Felix won’t come cheap, though. He signed a contract extension at Atletico just before he was loaned to Chelsea with the Spanish club keen to protect his value should he move on permanently. Atleti splashed out a whopping £113million for the Portugal international in the summer of 2019 and the club will be looking to get most of that back for any move.
Chelsea should really consider their options before making a bid for Felix, who for all of his undoubted talent and ability, lacks end product. If a club is to spend such money on a forward, then he needs to be contributing with a solid goal and assist return. Felix hasn’t done that just yet at Chelsea (two goals and no assists in his opening 13 matches for the Blues).
There is serious talent in there – emphasised by the turn he did in the first-half that led to him shooting but ultimately being blocked. He produces little snippets of magic and it’s always a reminder of the world-class potential he possesses. But that in itself is not enough to justify spending what could be around £80m for his signature on a permanent basis.
Benzema’s performance on Wednesday reminded Chelsea – if they needed reminding – of the benefits of having a world-class centre-forward in the side. The Frenchman is an elite-level talent and has been for a number of years, so this isn’t a call for Chelsea to go out and sign the next Benzema. But it is a call to seriously consider adding a proper No.9 to the squad in the summer before splashing the cash on someone like Felix, who the club already have enough of at the moment.
These big games against the likes of Real Madrid, they’re the matches you need a player of Felix’s talent to come to the forefront. You do not need a performance where he barely touches the ball or makes the right decisions when he does have possession.
This is not an article blaming Felix solely for Chelsea’s defeat. That’s not the case at all. It’s trying to explain why Chelsea should really carefully consider their options before making a decision that will have repercussions in the summer transfer window.
Having a side with such little end product is not acceptable, especially when you play in games like that one at the Santiago Bernabeu.