Chelsea fired new warning over ‘the best striker in modern football’

Thomas Tuchel’s side must overturn a two-goal deficit to keep their Champions League hopes alive after losing the first leg of this quarter-final against Real Madrid 3-1.

Benzema scored a hat-trick at Stamford Bridge last week and Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti insists there is no better striker in world football than the France international.

The Italian said: “Football changes and players evolve. Benzema is a forward for modern football, the best striker in modern football. He not only scores, he helps the team and is really important. The presence of these champions is helpful for young players as well.”

Chelsea face a titanic effort to keep the defence of their European crown alive, with Tuchel claiming after the first leg that the tie was effectively dead.

But Benzema refuses to be caught up in any mind games, insisting Madrid will not lose their focus against the reigning champions at the Bernabeu. “The key is to play like in the first leg, get into the game and play to win,” he said. “We have to show that we want to go to the semi-final.”

Evergreen striker Karim Benzema has scored back-to-back Champions League hat-tricks for Real Madrid

/ AFP via Getty Images

Tuchel has softened his stance on his side’s chances of getting back into the tie after their 6-0 win over Southampton on Saturday, but still described progression to the semis as a “dream.”

Former Madrid star Mateo Kovavic is refusing to give up on a place in the last-four, saying: “There have been many comebacks and I was included in one. In the 2015-16 season, we [Madrid] lost the first game 2-0 at Wolfsburg and we came to the Bernabeu and won 3-0.

“I also saw the other day the game when Chelsea played against Napoli. We lost 3-1 at Napoli and at Stamford Bridge we came back. Football is always surprising and we need to be ready more than 100 per cent to be able to complete a comeback.

“We have our chance and we’re motivated to show our best. We didn’t have our best game [last week] and the result was not good, but there is hope. It will be a quality game and we’re looking forward to it.”

Tuchel called a clear-the-air team meeting after back-to-back defeats to Brentford and Madrid, and Kovacic hopes that will reignite Chelsea’s campaign.

“It is never easy to come back after an international break, but it is not an excuse that we underperformed in the last two games,” he said. “It was necessary to have the talk, to see where we can do better and where we did good.

“It was a good meeting, as it gave us a good lift. We were ready for the game against Southampton and we need to do the same against Real.”

Chelsea overcame Madrid in last season’s semi-final, but Tuchel has warned his players that it will be a different task tonight, not least because the game is at the Bernabeu, whereas they played at Madrid’s training ground last year because of Covid restrictions.

“It cannot be more different,” he said. “Last year it was at the training ground. It is one of the biggest challenges to perform as an away team in the Bernabeu, It is even more difficult if you need to win with a minimum of two goals, maybe a three-goal difference. It makes it almost impossible, but it is worth trying. We need to over-perform.”

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