Of all the possibilities offered by the Champions League draw held in Nyon, the worst were surely given to the interests of Real Madrid, reigning champions of the competition. Not only because of the opponents in the quarter-finals, Chelsea, and in the eventual semi-finals, Manchester City or Bayern Munich, but because in the two qualifiers the second leg for the Whites would be in the opposite field. The Bernabéu factor, which was so important last season to push through very difficult qualifiers in the last minutes, is thus diluted by a high percentage. Against Chelsea, the first leg will be played at the Bernabéu on April 12 and the second leg at Stamford Bridge on the 18th of the same month.
After virulently attacking Liverpool (6-2 on aggregate), last year's finalist, the whites have gained a lot of confidence in the competition. Chelsea is an old friend that the whites have faced in the last two editions with different fortunes. Two seasons ago, the British defeated the Whites (1-1 and 0-2) in the semi-finals and subsequently proclaimed themselves champions against City. Last year, on the other hand, they met in the quarter-finals and Carlo Ancelotti's men beat them 1-3 at Stamford Bridge and reached the semi-finals at the Bernabéu after extra time (2-3).
However, this Chelsea has little to do with that of years past. In the first place, the German Thomas Tuchel is no longer on the bench, dismissed at the start of the season in a very surprising way due to problems with the new management of the team. The Englishman Graham Potter inherited the project, which has not achieved the results expected from one of the big six.
The English coach was handed a team with structural problems, especially at the front after the poor performance of Timo Werner and especially Romelu Lukaku, and he has needed more than five months and 330 million to start straightening it out.
In fact, the best Chelsea of the season have been seen in the last three matches. Three wins against Leeds United, Borussia Dortmund and Leicester City thanks to great performances from key players such as Kai Havertz, Marc Cucurella, João Félix, Enzo Fernández and centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly.
The star-studded quarter-final tie features Manchester City, runner-up in 2021 and semi-finalist in 2022, and Bayern, champion in 2020, the two teams everyone wanted to avoid. Pep Guardiola returns to what was his home for three seasons (2013-2016) and where he did not make it past the semi-finals. Erling Håland's five goals against Leipzig (7-0 and 8-1 on aggregate) increase the respect of a City that has never won the tournament.
At the other end of the table, there is also no clear favorite to make the final in Istanbul on June 10, 2023, although in this case the qualified teams do not have the same pedigree as the other four. Between Inter Milan-Benfica and Milan-Naples, one of the finalists of the competition will emerge. The prominence of the Italian teams stands out, with three participants, which had not happened for 17 seasons. Milan, reigning champions of Serie A, challenge Napoli, the fittest Italian team who, barring a catastrophe, should be crowned champions of the League this season. In the other tie, the surprising Benfica, a team that has played very solid football so far, wants to surprise an Inter Milan that did not reach the quarter-finals for 12 years (2010), although that season they raised the title