Champions League QF preview: Real Madrid-Chelsea, AC Milan-Napoli

Frank Lampard’s Chelsea face daunting trip to Madrid, while Napoli play fellow Italian giants Millan in quarterfinals.

Real Madrid's Eden Hazard, Aurelien Tchouameni and Rodrygo during training
Real Madrid are looking to make it to the semifinals for the 11th time in 13 seasons [Juan Medina/Reuters]

Real Madrid and Chelsea face off in their second consecutive meeting in the Champions League quarterfinals on Wednesday, while AC Milan and Napoli renew hostilities for an all-Italian clash in the evening’s other quarterfinal first-leg tie.

Real Madrid vs Chelsea

When: Wednesday, April 12
Where: Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, Madrid
Kickoff: 19:00 GMT

Real Madrid knocked out Chelsea last season en route to a record-extending 14th European trophy. They also met two seasons ago in the semifinals, when Chelsea advanced to eventually win the title.

Madrid are looking to make it to the semifinals for the 11th time in 13 seasons, while Chelsea have appeared in the last four only once since 2013-14.

The winner of the two-legged tie will face Manchester City or Bayern Munich in the semifinals.

Player news

Real Madrid have nearly all of their players available for the first leg, with the exception of left back Ferland Mendy.

Mason Mount and N’Golo Kante did not play in Chelsea’s last game in the Premier League but have returned to training and should be available for the trip to the Spanish capital.

Coaches comment

Chelsea arrive for the first leg in Madrid with Frank Lampard back in charge as the team’s interim coach, and he called on his young team to prove themselves on the pitch as “leaders” after a series of disappointing results.

“Games like tomorrow are a great chance to perform and show the personality that makes you a proper leader,” Lampard said Tuesday. “We will try, if we can, to create our own little bit of history, but the steps in front of us are very difficult of course,” he added.

Carlo Ancelotti led Madrid to the Champions League title last season, but now there are reports of him possibly leaving to take a job with Brazil’s national team.

“[Lampard] knows these kinds of games well and how to prepare his team. He has been here for a week, but he will do well in the time he is at Chelsea,” he said.

“We have to respect the team and the club, they have very good players and even if they are not in a good moment they have great motivation and will bring out the best. It’s a squad of a very high level,” he added.

AC Milan vs Napoli

When: Wednesday, April 12
Where: San Siro, Milan
Kickoff: 19:00 GMT

Milan routed Napoli 4-0 in Serie A on April 2 to boost its confidence coming into the European matchup. Napoli nevertheless has a 16-point lead over second-place Lazio domestically.

Seven-time champion Milan boast a much more noteworthy European pedigree but have not been in the final eight since 2012.

It is Napoli’s first-ever appearance in the Champions League quarterfinals.

Player news

Napoli’s Victor Osimhen, Serie A’s leading goalscorer, missed the league match against Milan with a thigh injury and has not recovered in time for the trip to San Siro. Taking Osimhen’s place could be Italy’s Giacomo Raspadori, who is Napoli’s only fit striker as Giovanni Simeone has suffered a hamstring injury.

Milan defender Pierre Kalulu has been struggling with a calf problem and is unlikely to feature.

Coaches comment

Napoli coach Luciano Spalletti pointed to his team winning every game when Osimhen was last injured late last year as evidence the absence of 24-year-old will not hurt his side.

“The strength of a team is never just the sum of its various parts. It’s the sum of all its qualities, how they co-exist and the way the team works together,” Spalletti told reporters on Tuesday.

Milan coach Stefano Pioli said Milan, who have won only one of the last six matches in all competitions, will be a different prospect in the Champions League.

“The Champions League has nothing to do with the league, they are two different things with different teams,” Pioli said. “It will be a completely different matter to the league.”

The winner of the two-legged matchup will face Inter Milan or Benfica in the semifinals.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies