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Champions League: Focus on coaches as Madrid hosts Chelsea


The latest encounter between Real Madrid and Chelsea in the Champions League will put a spotlight on their coaches.

Chelsea will travel for Wednesday’s first leg in Madrid with Frank Lampard trying to win for the first time since being named interim coach.

Madrid will play still surrounded by doubts about Carlo Ancelotti’s future amid rumours of him taking over Brazil’s national team.

The outcome could potentially help Lampard reclaim a permanent job with the English club, or influence Ancelotti’s decision on whether to accept the Brazil job.

Chelsea appointed Lampard to replace Graham Potter and lost its first game with him in charge in the Premier League over the weekend. The club enters the match at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium on a four-match winless run. It has won only two of its last 11 matches in the Premier League, where it sits in 11th place.

“We have an opportunity against a fantastic team and we just have to attempt to make the most of the opportunity — go there with confidence and go there with a belief, because otherwise you don’t turn up,” said Lampard, the former Chelsea midfield great who also coached the team from 2019-21.

Ancelotti and Madrid are coming off a 3-2 home loss to Villarreal that all-but-ended the team’s hopes of winning the Spanish league, leaving it 13 points behind leader Barcelona with 10 matches remaining. Its focus now is on the Champions League and the Copa del Rey final against Osasuna in May.

Ancelotti has said he wants to remain with Madrid until the end of his contract next year, but acknowledged that he was flattered to know about Brazil’s interest in him. Brazil’s national team has an interim coach since after the World Cup and wants a replacement to be announced soon.

The last two Champions League winners, Madrid and Chelsea have gotten used to facing each other in the knockout stages of the competition recently.

Madrid got the best of Chelsea in the quarterfinals last season on its way to a record-extending 14th European title. Chelsea overcame Madrid in the semifinals in the previous year to eventually secure its second Champions League trophy.

Chelsea eliminated Madrid 3-1 on aggregate amid the coronavirus pandemic in 2020-21, while Madrid last year advanced with a 5-4 total score following extra time in a thrilling second leg at the Bernabeu.

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

Madrid has won six of its eight Champions League games this season, with a loss at Leipzig and a draw at Shakhtar Donetsk in the group stage. Chelsea has five victories, one draw and two defeats — to Dinamo Zagreb in the group stage and to Borussia Dortmund in the first leg of the round of 16. The draw came against Salzburg in the group stage.

Ancelotti will have nearly all of his players available for the first leg, with the exception of left back Ferland Mendy.

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

The winner of the series will face Manchester City or Bayern Munich in the semifinals.

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