Eden Hazard has apologised to Real Madrid supporters after he was seen laughing with Chelsea players following his side's Champions League semi-final exit on Wednesday.

The Belgium international, who spent seven seasons at Stamford Bridge before joining Madrid in 2019, was heavily criticised for sharing a joke with some of his former colleagues.

It came after another ineffective performance from Hazard, who has struggled for injuries in his two seasons at the Santiago Bernabeu and has been linked with a move away.

He played 89 minutes of the 2-0 loss in west London as goals from Timo Werner and Mason Mount send perennial European champions Madrid crashing out 3-1 on aggregate.

A number of former Madrid players have taken aim at Hazard for his actions at full-time, with Fernando Morientes calling for the 30-year-old to say sorry to the club's fanbase.

And Hazard took to social media on Thursday to do exactly that in a short statement that read: "I am sorry. I have read lots of opinions about me today and it was not my intention to offend the Real Madrid fans.

"It has always been my dream to play for Real Madrid and I came here to win. The season is not over and together we must not battle for La Liga! Hala Madrid!"

Hazard won two Premier League titles, two Europa Leagues, the EFL Cup and the FA Cup during his time with Chelsea.

The forward has featured only 40 times for the Spanish giants in all competitions since arriving in a big-money deal, including 18 appearances in the 2020-21 campaign.

He may get an opportunity to redeem himself when title-chasing Madrid host Sevilla in LaLiga on their return to action on Sunday.

Sergio Ramos is remaining upbeat following Real Madrid's Champions League exit to Chelsea with his side still in the mix for the LaLiga title.

Madrid lost 2-0 to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday to exit the competition 3-1 on aggregate at the semi-final stage.

A record-extending 14th European Cup may be out of the question for Los Blancos, but they have plenty left to play for in the Spanish top flight.

Zinedine Zidane's men are second in the standings and just two points behind leaders Atletico Madrid, who travel to third-placed Barcelona on Saturday.

Ramos took to social media on Thursday to issue a rallying cry of sorts ahead of Sunday's home match with outside title contenders Sevilla.

"We're disappointed, yes. But we're not finished," he posted on Instagram. "A history built on victories but Real Madrid has always risen from defeats.

"The league title is still there for us and we're up for it."

Ramos made his first appearance in nearly two months for Madrid after recovering from injury in time to face Chelsea in the second leg.

The Spain international contested more aerial duels (eight) than any player on the field, winning 37.5 per cent of those, while only team-mates Toni Kroos (84) and Luka Modric (86) played more successful passes than his 82.

Following the loss in west London and draw in Madrid last week, Los Blancos have faced Chelsea more often without winning than any other opponent in their entire history, drawing twice and losing three times.

Chelsea will face Paris Saint-Germain's conquerors Manchester City in the May 29 final, making it the eighth showpiece to be contested by two teams from the same nation.

As for Madrid, they travel to Granada and Athletic Bilbao after this weekend's meeting with fourth-placed Sevilla, before hosting Villarreal on the final day of the season.

Real Madrid and Kylian Mbappe – the two parties have long been tipped to come together.

Mbappe is out of contract at Paris Saint-Germain in 2022 and no closer to renewing his deal.

Madrid are reportedly moving closer to prising the France international to the Spanish capital.

 

TOP STORY – MBAPPE POISED FOR MADRID MOVE?

Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe is edging closer to joining LaLiga giants Real Madrid, according to Diario AS.

Mbappe has long been tipped to swap PSG for Madrid, though the Ligue 1 holds continue to try to re-sign the World Cup-winning forward.

PSG's Mbappe is determined to win the Champions League as he eyes the Santiago Bernabeu.


 

ROUND-UP

- Le Parisien, though, claims PSG are holding out hope on teaming Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi with Mbappe and Neymar in Paris. Messi is set to become a free agent at the end of the season and he has been linked with PSG and Manchester City. Neymar has also been linked with a Barca return. However, Le Parisien reports PSG are prioritising a move for Messi while trying to retain Neymar and Mbappe.

Lautaro Martinez is on the verge of signing a new contract with Serie A champions Inter, says Gazzetta dello Sport. The Inter forward has been linked with Barca previously.

- Tuttosport reports star Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma is a primary transfer target for Serie A rivals Juventus. Donnarumma is out of contract at the end of the season and the Italy international has not agreed fresh terms with Milan.

Borussia Dortmund will ask for less than €100million (£86m) to sell Jadon Sancho amid interest from United, Chelsea and Liverpool, says Fabrizio Romano.

- The Mirror says Liverpool are eyeing Roma star Lorenzo Pellegrini as incoming Giallorossi boss Jose Mourinho looks to overhaul the squad in the Italian capital. The front page of Thursday's Gazzetto dello Sport, meanwhile, claims Mourinho is looking to bring Manchester United midfielder Nemanja Matic and Madrid's Isco to Roma.

- Soon-to-be free agent and City star Sergio Aguero is dreaming of a Barcelona move, according to Romano. InterTottenham and Chelsea have also emerged as options for the veteran forward.

Maurizio Sarri is a candidate to take charge of Milan if Stefano Pioli fails to guide the Rossoneri into the Champions League, claims Gazzetta dello Sport. Sarri was reportedly set to join Roma before Mourinho's appointment.

- Rennes sensation Eduardo Camavinga, Sassuolo's Manuel Locatelli and Mikel Merino of Real Sociedad are on Barca's shortlist to replace Sergio Busquets, reports Mundo Deportivo.

A gripping LaLiga title race should be all Real Madrid need to pick themselves up from their Champions League semi-final loss to Chelsea, according to Zinedine Zidane.

Madrid head coach Zidane conceded his team were beaten by the better side after goals from Timo Werner and Mason Mount gave Chelsea a 2-0 win at Stamford Bridge, sending them through 3-1 on aggregate to an all-English final against Manchester City at the end of this month.

Los Blancos looked a shadow of the side that won three consecutive European crowns under Zidane between 2016-2018, but the France great insisted he was proud of his players' endeavours on Wednesday.

Now they face up to a LaLiga battle, where they are level on points with Barcelona and two points behind leaders Atletico Madrid with four games remaining. Barca and Atleti face one another this weekend.

"We have spoken on this many times this season. It has been a year with many injuries, ups and downs, and that’s what we have dealt this year," Zidane told a post-match news conference midweek.

"Despite it all, we have done good things in this Champions League in order to reach this stage.

"I think we deserved it and we were only one step from the final, but we have to congratulate this team [Chelsea], who has been better tonight.

"It doesn't change anything. I am very pleased and very proud and now it is the time to rest and be focused on the last four games in LaLiga."

Captain Sergio Ramos and Ferland Mendy were passed fit to start for Madrid and struggled to find top gear, although Zidane insisted he had no regrets over the selections.

"If my players have played it's because they were ready for the 90 minutes," he said.

"Ramos and Mendy were ready to play, that's why I put them on. It was a semi-final and they were ready."

Another man recently back to fitness, Eden Hazard, lasted 89 minutes but had minimal impact against his former club.

After the match, images of Hazard congratulating his old Chelsea team-mates played very badly in Madrid, but Zidane urged patience with the €100million forward.

"Eden needs to play regularly and get his confidence back," he added. "And you get that slowly and playing games.

"So, we need to get back Eden and it will be possible playing games."

Thomas Tuchel said the sacrifice of leaving his family to take on the challenge of managing Chelsea has been "worth it every single day" after making history by guiding them to the Champions League final.

The Blues progressed to the final for the third time in their history as a 2-0 win over Real Madrid clinched a 3-1 aggregate victory and a place in the Istanbul showpiece against Premier League rivals Manchester City on May 29.

In doing so, Tuchel became the first manager in the history of the Champions League and European Cup to reach the final in consecutive seasons with different teams. Tuchel led Paris Saint-Germain to the final last year, only to lose 1-0 to Bayern Munich.

Chelsea will also contest the FA Cup final against Leicester City on May 15 and hold a three-point lead over fifth-placed West Ham in the race for the Premier League top four.

Tuchel has lost only two of his 24 games (W16, D6) since taking charge in January and insists he immediately felt right at home at Stamford Bridge.

"It was worth it every single day so far," Tuchel said of the sacrifice he made.

"I was part of an amazing club from the first day, I felt huge support from day one. I'm very grateful to be at the sideline of this team."

Chelsea took a 1-0 lead through Timo Werner's simple 28th-minute header after Kai Havertz had struck the crossbar, but spurned several chances to stretch their lead as Havertz twice went close and Mason Mount and N'Golo Kante wasted opportunities.

But Mount made the tie safe five minutes from time, becoming the second youngest Englishman to score in the semi-finals of the Champions League – aged 22 years and 15 days – after Wayne Rooney (21 years 182 days).

"The heads were never down, the heads were always up even after these big chances," added Tuchel.

"We always stayed positive and we never regret something so it was fantastic. The job is not done yet, we are in two finals now, the sacrifice I personally gave was worth it since day one."

Chelsea beat Pep Guardiola's City in the FA Cup semi-finals and will face them again in the league on Saturday.

Tuchel rejected the notion of that victory giving Chelsea the upper hand ahead of the final but said of the Wembley win: "It gives us a good feeling, it gives us confidence.

"We played that semi-final on the edge and we used it. I said before and I will say it always for me Bayern Munich throughout the last season with Manchester City, they are the benchmark.

"We wanted to close the gap in this one match, the semi-final, which we did on a very impressive performance and we will need the same level of performance again.

"It gave us belief, it gave us self-confidence for every game after that because it is the highest level you can face. We have these huge challenges in the Premier League, we have come out of it very, very strong, we showed mentality and quality in all of these matches.

"We will arrive with self-confidence and with the positive energy in Istanbul. We will arrive in Istanbul to win, not to be one of the participants, we arrive to be focused to win." 

Mason Mount was delighted to fire Chelsea into the Champions League final against Manchester City but felt Real Madrid got off lightly with a 2-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge.

Timo Werner headed Thomas Tuchel's Chelsea into a first-half lead in London but the tie remained in the balance until Mount made it 3-1 on aggregate five minutes from time on Wednesday.

Chelsea were far superior and passed up a host of chances to make the game safe – Opta's expected goals xG projection tallying 3.8-0.5 in Chelsea's favour.

"We should've probably had about five," Mount beamed in his post-match interview with BT Sport. "But the most important thing is we won. We want to go into every game winning it.

"It was 1-0 but that really didn't matter because if they score, they were back in the game.

"To get that one late on, you can see by the celebrations, it was a massive goal for us and gave us breathing space in the last five minutes.

"We gave everything and we had that desire to win first half. We had a couple of opportunities where we won the ball and should've scored but we got the one late on and it's great.

Werner nodded in a simple finish after Kai Havertz's 28th-minute chip looped down off the crossbar – a first Champions League goal from open play in Chelsea colours for the Germany forward, who came in for criticism for spurning a glorious chance during last week's first leg.

"I said to Timo, 'It must've felt like an eternity for the ball to drop down'," Mount said. "We're all buzzing for him."

City can seal the Premier League title in what is now a dress rehearsal meeting with Chelsea on Saturday.

Pep Guardiola's City have already lifted the EFL Cup for a fourth consecutive season, although Chelsea's 1-0 win over a much-changed XI in last month's FA Cup semi-final will give them hope they can deny the Premier League leaders an elusive first success in Europe's top competition.

"We haven't won anything yet. We've got two massive cup finals and hopefully we can win," Mount added, with Leicester City up at Wembley in the FA Cup final 10 days from now.

"We've got [Manchester City] on Saturday. We've played three times already this season, so it will be a stunning game."

Zinedine Zidane "got everything wrong" in Real Madrid's Champions League loss to Chelsea and could pay the price, Predrag Mijatovic has warned.

Madrid were beaten 2-0 by Chelsea in the second leg on Wednesday as Timo Werner and Mason Mount secured a 3-1 aggregate win in the semi-final.

It could have been a far more convincing scoreline had the Blues been more clinical at Stamford Bridge, while Madrid, who had 68 per cent of the ball, had only one shot on target after the 36th minute.

With Sergio Ramos back but the likes of Raphael Varane, Dani Carvajal and Lucas Vazquez injured, Zidane opted for a 3-4-3 system in which his players rarely looked comfortable.

Edouard Mendy made two good saves from Karim Benzema in the first half but the Chelsea goalkeeper was largely a spectator as he kept an eighth clean sheet in the competition this season, a record for a goalkeeper at an English club.

Madrid could still end the season by defending their league title – they trail leaders Atletico Madrid by just two points with four games left – but former Madrid striker Mijatovic fears the loss to Chelsea may inflict lasting damage.

"Chelsea were really superior in everything: intensity, rhythm, creating chances. We like Zidane and he's done many things, but he got everything wrong," he told Cadena Ser.

"This tie will do a lot of damage to Zidane. So did the previous year, although the league covered some things. Zidane has got a lot of things wrong and that resulted in Madrid's elimination.

"When they started the game and you saw they didn't want to change the picture, with poor Vinicius playing in a position that isn't his, Madrid did practically nothing.

"The team went out totally confused, without knowing what to do. We'll see what happens in LaLiga. The feelings you get from Madrid offer little to think the season will end well."

Former Madrid goalkeeper Santiago Canizares praised Mendy for his decisive saves from Benzema, which ensured Chelsea took a 1-0 lead into half-time.

"Chelsea are not just physical. They have really good tactics and a great attacking and defensive balance. They're a very tough nut to crack," he said.

"We didn't see phases of superiority from Madrid. The two chances Madrid had where from Benzema, but Mendy won the game."

Zidane guided Madrid to three consecutive Champions League triumphs from 2016 to 2018, but they lost at the last-16 stage in the previous two seasons before succumbing to Chelsea this time.

Midfielder Casemiro, who feels Madrid have been left with little in the tank after a challenging year with injuries, felt their defeat proved just what a remarkable run it was to win the tournament three years running.

"We were better in the first 25 minutes, we had two chances with Karim," he said. "Then they played better, they had more chances, but there's no turning back now, we have to think about LaLiga.

"I think Chelsea were superior and played better than us. After the year we've had with injuries, absences, COVID, without fans... we've tried. But they were better. We can't be sad now, we have to think about Sevilla [on Saturday].

"We showed that what we did was historic. It's not easy to win the Champions League. We showed again that it's not easy to win this."

This past year or so has done very little for our basic grasp of time.

Don't leave the house for a week, miss a couple of Zoom quizzes and what even are days?

Time and how easily or readily it passes depends on individual perception – our stresses, worries and hopes at that given moment.

Between Chelsea forward Kai Havertz hitting the Real Madrid crossbar in Wednesday's Champions league semi-final and the ball plopping down onto Timo Werner's head, a little under two seconds passed.

It's nothing really, but how they must have dragged for Werner. So many things to flash through his mind's eye. All soundtracked by a klaxon of "OH GOD, OH GOD, YOU CAN'T MISS… DON'T MISS! ARRRGGHHH!"

He might have thought of how coolly he linked with the effervescent N'Golo Kante in the build-up to Havertz's impudent dinked effort.

Kante negotiated Madrid's seasoned midfield with nimble precision and was one of Chelsea's many outstanding players on the night.

Casemiro and Toni Kroos will not want to think of the France international for some time after this, but the number seven on his blue shirt scampering around and away from them might be a hard image to shift.

Werner would create a glorious chance for Kante as only ex-Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois prevented Madrid from collapsing in a heap after half-time. He has brought much more than unfortunate penalty box uncertainty to Chelsea, however much howling missed chances like his volley in the first leg linger in the collective consciousness.

The ex-RB Leipzig man has 12 goals and 10 assists this season, making him the first Chelsea player to record double figures for both since Eden Hazard in 2018-19.

"I'm sure I've seen him around here somewhere," Werner might have thought as he gazed up into the cool night sky.

Zinedine Zidane's selection of Hazard in his starting XI and decision to keep him on for 89 minutes had little logic beyond "it's a funny old game". The only thing coming back to haunt anyone right now is the Belgium playmaker's price tag and what Florentino Perez thinks is acceptable when faced with a chasm in the Madrid accounts.

Few players in full flight are as utterly joyous as Hazard, but that was the Chelsea Hazard. Fitness woes have turned his dream move into a nightmare. He failed to register a shot or create a chance for a team-mate during the first half on his old stomping ground.

There was a snapshot on the angle to test imperious Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy in the 64th minute before Hazard returned to the margins.

Big-name signings have no guarantees, as Werner might have mulled as he positioned his forehead for the ball and a virtually unmissable chance. Oh, to be a striker in form.

That can be a different kind of burden, though.

“For people who like to watch football, Karim is a gift,” Zidane recently said of his talismanic striker Karim Benzema. "We enjoy him and so do his teammates. Karim makes the difference."

As much as it must be nice to have his team-mates enjoy him, Benzema must sometimes wish they'd join in. His lightning control and volley conjured an equaliser out of nothing at Valdebebas last week.

He almost did likewise at Stamford Bridge, producing a brilliant first touch and venomous shot from the edge of the box that Mendy saved superbly.

When Benzema escaped the attentions of Antoinio Rudiger and Thiago Silva before half-time to send a looping header towards the net, the Chelsea goalkeeper was again his equal. The same could not be said for anyone with whom he shares a dressing room.

Mason Mount was on hand to make sure of a 2-0 win and an all-English final against Manchester City five minutes from time. A lavishly gifted youngster putting Madrid out of their misery felt somewhat symbolic - Mount possessed of the verve and energy that this shell of the great side that won three consecutive Champions Leagues have long since left behind. Time waits for no one.

Just like their limp exits against Ajax and City in the past two seasons, this was meek. The only dazzle that remains comes from their famous white kits.

Back in the 28th minute, there was the dazzling white of the floodlights, the crossbar and the ball all in Werner's immediate view. It was time, his time – the easiest goal he will ever score and very possibly the most important.

Two seconds from the moment Havertz hit the crossbar. Eight days on from Werner's torment in Madrid. A whole, torrid season. However you frame it, it was worth the wait.

Chelsea reached the Champions League final after a 2-0 win over Real Madrid on Wednesday completed a 3-1 aggregate victory in the semi-final.

Thomas Tuchel's side will meet Manchester City in Istanbul after a fully deserved triumph at Stamford Bridge, secured through Timo Werner and Mason Mount.

The Germany international's first open-play goal in the competition since September 2019 put the Blues ahead before Mount converted from close range in the closing stages after the hosts had missed a plethora of second-half openings as they countered Madrid with ease.

Zinedine Zidane's men looked out of sorts in a makeshift 3-4-3, even with captain Sergio Ramos and former Chelsea star Eden Hazard back in the side, as their winless record against the Premier League club stretched to five matches.

Following a quiet start, Werner had the ball in the net after 18 minutes but the forward had strayed offside before meeting Ben Chilwell's low cross.

Madrid enjoyed 73 per cent of the possession in the first 25 minutes and Edouard Mendy made a brilliant one-handed save to keep out a shot from Karim Benzema on the turn.

Yet they went behind two minutes later. N'Golo Kante's superb turn of pace allowed him to set up Kai Havertz, and although his chip came off the crossbar, Werner was on hand to nod in the rebound.

Benzema was denied again by Mendy, this time from a close-range header, but Madrid struggled to create opportunities despite their dominance of the ball.

Havertz again struck the woodwork with a powerful header just after the restart, but this time Thibaut Courtois breathed a sigh of relief as the ball bounced over and behind.

Mount wasted a glorious chance, driving at Courtois but blasting his finish over, and Havertz was denied by the goalkeeper's leg when through following a simple ball over the top.

Kante also wasted a good opening before Mount at last killed the contest, steering into the net from Christian Pulisic's cut-back after Madrid lost possession in their own half.

What does it mean? Chelsea to battle City second all-English final in three seasons

Madrid had never beaten Chelsea in four previous European meetings coming into this match and had not won in four consecutive away games against English sides in the competition.

It seemed the omens had weighed on the visitors as they failed to create anything meaningful beyond the first-half openings for Benzema, with the players looking uncomfortable in Zidane's system.

Chelsea, by contrast, were diligent and energetic and fully deserved to reach a third Champions League final.

No messing from Mendy

Mendy made four saves as Chelsea faced four shots on target in the first half of a Champions League game for the first time since October 2017 against Roma.

His two from Benzema were exceptional and helped to put his side in a commanding position at the break – one they did not relinquish.

Zidane loses Midas touch

Zidane guided Madrid to three consecutive trophies in this competition and oversaw an impressive defeat of Liverpool in the previous round.

However, his back-three set-up here, somewhat enforced by injury problems, was vulnerable to Chelsea's breaks throughout and seemed to stifle Hazard, Benzema and Vinicius Junior.

What's next?

Chelsea face something of a warm-up act for the final when they meet Pep Guardiola's City in the Premier League on Saturday. Madrid's LaLiga title battle resumes against fellow contenders Sevilla.

Eden Hazard and Sergio Ramos were named in the Real Madrid starting line-up to face Chelsea in the Champions League semi-final second leg.

Belgium star Hazard was only involved as a second-half substitute during the 1-1 draw with his former club in the first leg in Spain.

The 30-year-old has only started nine games in all competitions in a season impacted by a succession of injuries and a positive test for coronavirus.

Madrid captain Ramos, who has not played since sustaining a calf injury during the March international break, was chosen to partner Eder Militao at the heart of defence as the injured Raphael Varane missed out. Ferland Mendy returned at left-back, with Nacho Fernandez on the right of the defence.

Hazard was joined in attack by Karim Benzema, who scored Madrid's equaliser in the first leg, and Vinicius Junior in front of the traditional midfield trio of Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Casemiro.

Chelsea chose Timo Werner and Kai Havertz in attack, supported by Mason Mount, as head coach Thomas Tuchel selected an apparent 3-4-3 system.

Christian Pulisic had to be content with a place on the bench despite opening the scoring in the tie.

Madrid have not beaten Chelsea in four previous European matches.

Three years ago, Harry Kane said he wanted to win trophies at Tottenham otherwise he may have to leave.

Spurs have not won any silverware since, however, prompting speculation the England striker may have move on to fulfil his ambition elsewhere.

Kane is contracted to the Premier League club until 2024 but they are set to miss out on Champions League football again.


TOP STORY - RED DEVILS PLOT STUNNING KANE BID

The Sun reports that Manchester United are set to table a £90million bid for Kane after approval from the Glazers to appease their recent fan fury.

The move would be a stunning development, but Kane is understood to be interested in joining the Red Devils.

Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy does not want to sell Kane to a rival, although he may be backed into a corner financially in order to re-build the squad.


ROUND-UP

- With West Brom doomed for relegation, goalkeeper Sam Johnstone is hot property with Manchester United joining the race for his signature, alongside Tottenham and West Ham, according to ESPN. The Telegraph claims West Brom have slapped a £20m price tag on him.

- Chelsea have entered the pursuit for Jadon Sancho, joining Manchester United and Liverpool after Borussia Dortmund lowered their asking price, says Bild.

- Real Madrid are monitoring the status of out-of-favour Manchester City winger Raheem Sterling, according to Football Insider.

- Everton head coach Carlo Ancelotti is keen to lure on-loan Tottenham forward Gareth Bale to the club as the Welshman's future at Real Madrid remains uncertain, claims El Chiringuito.

- Dutch winger Noa Lang is being tracked by Leeds United, reports The Telegraph.

Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos expects head coach Zinedine Zidane to remain at the helm beyond this season.

After winning LaLiga last season, Madrid are firmly in contention for more silverware this term although nothing is guaranteed at this stage.

Madrid are two points behind leaders and neighbours Atletico Madrid with four games remaining in LaLiga, while Los Blancos are competing in Champions League semi-finals.

Speaking ahead of Madrid's Champions League semi-final second leg away to Chelsea, after the opening fixture finished 1-1, Kroos was asked about Zidane.

"I think he'll be our coach next season," Kroos said with a laugh during his news conference. "He has a contract."

Kroos was bullish about Madrid's chances against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, despite not getting the favourable result in the first leg.

"We are strong defensively and that's important when it comes to getting through a tie like this one and against opponents like Chelsea," the German said.

"We want to create more chances than the first leg. We are capable of progressing and we are going to prepare properly the game, but we have to create a bit more than we did in the first leg."

Former Chelsea star Eden Hazard is available for Madrid and he looms large despite failing to make a major impact in the Spanish capital this season.

"We know what a good player he can be, Eden," Kroos said. "A shame that he hasn't been available in the last few months because of injuries.

"However, he's now doing better, which is so important for him for being at his best. He's a player who has a lot to help us.

"I don't know exactly how he is doing as he's only started one game but he's always a threat to opposition defences. It doesn't matter how much he'll play, it doesn't depend on me, I just hope he can help us."

Zinedine Zidane has been left in awe of his Real Madrid team for their persistence this season despite an often-lengthy injury list, though he insists it is no "miracle" to be in the Champions League semi-finals.

Madrid face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday having drawn 1-1 at home to the Blues last week, meaning Thomas Tuchel's men have a slender advantage secured by their away goal.

The omens are not great for Madrid, as they have never beaten Chelsea in four previous meetings and not won on any of their past four trips to England.

On top of that, Tuchel has only suffered four home defeats out of a possible 18 in the Champions League and seen his teams average 2.7 goals per game in those matches.

But Madrid showed character to salvage a draw in the first leg with Karim Benzema levelling Christian Pulisic's opener, and Zidane believes the fact they have got this far despite operating with a depleted squad for much of 2021 is testament to the team's excellent mentality.

"You have to take your hat off to this team," he told reporters on Tuesday. "Every time there are difficulties, they respond. They are the best. We are where we want to be and it is deserved.

"The team has character, first of all, and when things get complicated, they are there."

However, when it was put to Zidane that Madrid's progress this far into the competition was akin to a "miracle", the Frenchman did not want to get carried away.

"It's not a miracle to be here, not at all, on the contrary," he said. "We are here for our work and because we believe in what we do.

"We're here because of our work, nothing else. In football, there are no miracles."

Madrid have recovered several key players for the trip to London, with Marcelo, Sergio Ramos, Federico Valverde and Ferland Mendy all able to travel.

While the loss of Raphael Varane to an abductor injury was a blow, the return of captain Ramos – out since March – will add leadership and experience to the side.

"I'm not going to risk anything," Zidane said of Ramos' inclusion. "If he's with us, he's ready to play.

"He's with us, that means it's okay. It's the most important thing, to have our leader."

Eden Hazard appeared against his former club off the bench last week and Zidane is backing the Belgian to have an impact at Stamford Bridge.

"It's a very good moment for him and I think he comes prepared," Zidane added. "We are going to need him and he'll help, for sure."

Thomas Tuchel insists Chelsea will not sit back on their away-goal advantage against Real Madrid as it is in the club's DNA to try to win every match.

Christian Pulisic scored a crucial goal for Chelsea in last week's Champions League semi-final first leg before Karim Benzema levelled up the tie at 1-1 through Madrid's only shot on target.

The onus is on Madrid to score an away goal of their own in Wednesday's return match at Stamford Bridge, but Tuchel does not intend to set his side out to protect their narrow lead.

"For me, the challenge is to forget the result in two-legged games and go on and start anew at 0-0," he said at Tuesday's pre-match news conference.

"We will prepare to win the match, nothing else. I don't know any other way to prepare other than to encourage my team to go out and try to win it.

"If we are at our best then it's a no-brainer that we go for the win. We want to win games, this club is about winning.

"This game and competition is about winning. We are in the semi-final second leg.

"The first result is not as important as everybody thinks. There is zero importance for me in the preparation of this match. 

"It's not changed anything about how we've prepared, zero influence. We will encourage them, we will demand from them and we will be strong tomorrow as a group."

Tuchel was left frustrated by Chelsea's finishing in the first leg, with Timo Werner guilty of missing good opportunities either side of Pulisic and Benzema's goals.

Werner has scored from three of his 20 shots in this season's Champions League, giving the Germany international a shot conversion rate of 15.0 per cent.

For comparison, Madrid striker Benzema – who will overtake Raul as the competition's outright fourth top goalscorer if he nets on Wednesday – has scored from six of his 31 shots (19.4 per cent)

But while Tuchel accepts his attacking players have to be more clinical, he is happy to persist with his current set-up.

"I believe that Timo absolutely wants to score more, but we have to understand sometimes strikers miss chances. This is part of the game," he said. 

"We have another training session today and it is always about the last impression from the players.

"Everybody needs to step up to take responsibility for scoring. This will come maybe with more time and some self-confidence. 

"I am pretty relaxed about it and trust my players, no matter who starts tomorrow."

Madrid were without captain Sergio Ramos last week but the experienced defender has been included as part of their squad for Wednesday's game.

Los Blancos have won three and drawn one of the four Champions League games Ramos has started this season, compared to three wins, two draws and two losses in the seven games he has missed.

Tuchel is expecting Ramos to return to the starting line-up at Stamford Bridge, which could also possibly mean a change in formation for the visitors.

"Does Ramos play or not? This is a tough question because I don't know if he's fit or not. We'll see after training and when they give the line-up," the German coach said.

"Does it change for Real Madrid? Yes, it changes them a lot. He's the captain of the most successful team in Europe in recent years.

"It changes a lot but we cannot lose our heads about this decision. I think that he will start, we will prepare for that and we have to make sure he can't do it alone."

"I am not sure if they will play 5-3-2 again, maybe they will go 4-3-3. From this decision, things change. 

"I believe that it is not about formation, what Real Madrid play, it is about how we play. Are we brave enough? Are we courageous enough?"

Chelsea have progressed from five of their past seven knockout ties in the Champions League when avoiding defeat away from home in the first leg. 

However, one of those two eliminations came in their last semi-final appearance in the competition, versus Atletico Madrid in 2013-14 when losing the second leg 3-1.

The Blues' only previous triumph in the competition was in 2011-12 and Tuchel, a beaten finalist with Paris Saint-Germain last season, knows the importance of lifting the trophy.

"I never felt like this competition is our holy grail since I arrived but I felt that this club is about winning," he said. 

"It does something to you, you feel it. We are very competitive, very serious about any game, this is what I like.

"I never felt we had a holy grail to reach the final or winning the Champions League is the only target. I have a strong feeling that every win counts, the club demands it."

Tuchel confirmed midfielder Mateo Kovacic will again miss out for Chelsea through injury, but Antonio Rudiger is fit to play with the aid of a protective mask.

Zinedine Zidane has the deepest squad that has been available to him for some time as Real Madrid travel to face Chelsea with Marcelo, Sergio Ramos, Federico Valverde and Ferland Mendy all available.

Madrid have often had a significantly depleted squad over the past couple of months, with a host of key players ruled out for extended periods.

But with Los Blancos needing a positive at Stamford Bridge in Wednesday's Champions League semi-final second leg, Zidane is once again able to count upon many of them.

While Raphael Varane's absence with an abductor injury sustained against Osasuna at the weekend is a blow, Ramos is available again for the first time since the end of March.

Whether he comes straight back into the starting XI given his lack of match action is another matter, though Eder Militao and Nacho have looked a solid pairing in recent weeks, keeping a clean sheet against Liverpool at Anfield in the quarter-finals.

Zidane will also have options at left-back, with Mendy recovering from a calf strain suffered in mid-April, while Marcelo has been able to travel.

The Brazilian was seemingly set to miss out entirely after he was called up to monitor a local election.

But, according to Spanish outlet La Sexta, an elderly woman – who was apparently a "second substitute" for the election role – volunteered to take Marcelo's place, freeing him up to join the squad before their flight to London.

Valverde, who has missed the past couple of weeks after testing positive for coronavirus, has joined up as well.

Madrid were held to a 1-1 draw at home by Chelsea, meaning they either need to win or secure a score-draw – with the exception of 1-1 – to progress to the final in Istanbul at the end of the month.

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