The final stages of the Champions League knockout round was drawn, setting up a rematch of last year’s semifinal against Real Madrid for Christian Pulisic and Chelsea.
With several heavyweights already eliminated in the final 16, Christian Pulisic and Chelsea were set up with the round’s undoubted highlight, as they once again face off against Real Madrid, for the second year running.
In last year’s semifinal, Chelsea prevailed by a 3-1 aggregate margin, with Pulisic scoring the first goal of the series in a 1-1 draw in Madrid, before a 2-0 victory by Chelsea in Stamford Bridge sealed it.
While the Spaniards have generally had the better form of the two teams over the last few months, and already vanquished another of the competition’s favorites – PSG – in the last round, all bets will be off for the pair of games in April.
Pulisic has re-emerged as one of Thomas Tuchel’s preferred starters in the attack after slowly rounding into form through early-2022, and will likely be an integral piece in the two games, set for April 6 in London and six days later in Madrid.
Currently, Tuchel has an embarrassment of riches in the Chelsea attack. With Pulisic, Kai Havertz, Romelu Lukaku, Mason Mount and Hakim Ziyech all momentarily in good health, the German coach has the luxury of tuning his attacking line on a game-by-game basis, depending on where he perceives the opponent’s weakness, and which of his own players are in the best form.
The semifinal meeting approximately one year ago was the only time these two heavyweights have clashed since the turn of the millennium, with The Blues also holding the edge in the three previous games they played against Real in 1971 and 1998.
Elsewhere in the draw, Zack Steffen and Manchester were drawn against the other Madrid team – Atlético de Madrid – with their home leg on April 5 and the trip to Spain’s capital eight days later.
Barring injury to first-choice keeper Ederson, Steffen will likely not play any role in the rest of City’s run in the competition. He was likely in line to have played the second leg of their Round of 16 tie against Sporting after they won the first leg by an unassailable 5-0 margin, however an injury kept him out of the lineup.
The draw also sets up the matchups for the two-legged semifinal round, set for late-April and early-May.
Should they knock out the Spaniards for a second year in a row to reach the semifinal, Pulisic and Chelsea will face either Manchester City, in a rematch of last year’s final, or the other Madrid team, Atlético.
Champions League Quarterfinal Draw
Chelsea (Christian Pulisic) – Real Madrid
Manchester City (Zack Steffen) – Atlético Madrid
Villarreal – FC Bayern
Benfica – Liverpool