On Tuesday, Chelsea and Benfica both secured their places in the quarterfinals of the Champions League in eventful fashion. At Stamford Bridge, Chelsea’s attack scored twice for the first time in 2023. That is, to defeat Dortmund 2-0 (2-1 on aggregate) and advance to the final eight. Raheem Sterling and Kai Havertz both found the back of the net. However, the match was full of twists and turns. Finally, culminating in a showdown between Gio Reyna and Christian Pulisic.
Havertz’s goal was quite controversial, as it originated from a handball charge against Marius Wolf after a VAR review. Although Havertz missed his first penalty attempt. He was also given a second chance due to encroachment by Dortmund. Also, he made no mistake with his second attempt. Thus, slotting the ball into the bottom corner to give Chelsea a 2-0 lead. Despite a few chances, the Dortmund attack was largely contained. Precisely, by Chelsea’s defense, making for an excellent match for the Blues.
Meanwhile, Benfica defeated Club Brugge 5-1 (7-1 on aggregate) with braces from Goncalo Ramos and Joao Mario. Scott Parker’s side was looking for a rebound. That is, after losing to a relegation-zone team in Belgium. But, they were flat from start to finish. Despite Benfica’s excellent midfield and defence, Brugge would not have expected to be so thoroughly over matched.
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Absence of Thiago Silva proves no issue for Chelsea:
With Dortmund in fine form and Chelsea missing their captain Thiago Silva due to injury, there were concerns that the Blues would struggle defensively in their match. Benoit Badiashile was not available for the Champions League squad due to registration restrictions, so Potter had to make changes to the defense that had kept a clean sheet against Leeds United. Marc Cucurella came into a back three alongside Kalidou Koulibaly and Wesley Fofana.
Fofana’s return was timely for Chelsea, as he put in an excellent performance in only his fourth appearance for the club since returning from a knee injury. Fofana won two of his three attempted tackles and made three clearances, helping Reece James defend against Marco Reus. The defense allowed only four shots on goal, which was a positive outcome for Kepa, who has been showing why he was the most expensive goalkeeper in the world. Overall, Chelsea’s defense performed well and limited the impact of Dortmund’s attack during the match.
Effective, yet not aesthetically pleasing, Chelsea gets the job done:
Chelsea’s attacking performance in the game was a refreshing change, with a balanced attack that gave Dortmund trouble. The trio of Joao Felix, Havertz, and Sterling led the line for Chelsea and went back to basics in their approach. This resulted in the Blues scoring twice, something they hadn’t done in 12 games since December 2022. The balance in the attack was aided by James’ role and the midfield duo of Kovacic and Fernandez, who provided strength in possession and decision-making.
Chelsea’s recent struggles with finishing had been a concern, but their performance in this game could be a confidence booster. The manner in which Sterling scored, with a whiff before an excellent finish, demonstrated that things can only improve for the Blues given their level of talent.
Benfica’s confidence is on the rise:
Benfica’s solid recruitment strategy has enabled them to cope with the loss of key players such as Darwin Nunez and Enzo Fernandez. Despite their absence, Benfica, who currently lead their domestic league by eight points, demonstrated their quality in the match against Club Brugge. Although this Brugge team is not as strong as the one that finished with 11 points in Group B, they are still a talented team, yet Benfica were able to dominate the game and score five goals. With Goncalo Ramos leading the attack, Benfica looks capable of causing problems for their opponents in the Champions League.
Goncalo Ramos, a striker who can use both feet, scored two goals and provided an assist in the match. He also showed his ability to create chances for his teammates. With a solid defense behind them, Benfica can be a dangerous team for their opponents if they underestimate them.