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Another who doesn’t start tonight is ex-Chelsea star Rüdiger –a scorer in this fixture last season. He makes way for Alaba, while Kroos, a five-time winner of this much-cherished tournament, is restored to the team compared to the XI that overcame Liverpool. In fact, there’s another rarity, in that it looks strongly as if Ancelotti is playing a ‘pivote’ in the middle of the engine room.1
João Félix and Sterling will lead the line, aiming to score the goals to take a first-leg lead back to Stamford Bridge.
That’s how Chelsea set up in the last two seasons against Madrid and it served them very well. It also has the benefit of giving Kanté the space to be his most effective.
There was a lot of discussion pre-match about what formation Lampard would use. The general consensus was that three in defence with wing-backs would suit Chelsea best and that’s what the line-up suggests: Fofana, Silva and Koulibaly in the middle, with James and Chilwell unleashed on the flanks.
It is, in fact, the front three used when Madrid made history with their remarkable scoreline at Anfield in the last round, going 2-0 down early on before racing to an eventual 5-2 victory. But this is not an identical XI to that night in north-west England.
Unusual, in the sense that the Italian coach often likes to use Valverde as a ‘hybrid’ player – deployed on the right of a front three but expected to work up front, in midfield and to give cover at right-back.
The reigning Spanish, European and World champions go with a hugely exciting line-up where, slightly unusually, Ancelotti names three out-and-out forwards: Vinícius Júnior, Karim Benzema and Rodrygo.
Both main Madrid football papers got the XI exactly right this morning when they predicted a 4-3-3 in which neither Nacho (pictured) nor Tchouaméni would feature.