Not since the days of John Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba, Chelsea have had players who just know how to win matches.
Thomas Tuchel’s team is slowly but surely figuring out how to stay competitive in the big games, but they are about to face a man who knows how to win in any way better than anyone else on the face of this earth – Sergio Ramos .
The Spaniard has been sitting on the sidelines for most of this season, picking up injury after illness after injury after COVID after whatever. This year he was so unreliable that there were many Real fans who called on the club not to renew their contract, which speaks volumes about how tired they are.
An unpleasant combination of a muscle injury and COVID-19 did not allow Ramos to come out of the last international break in early April, but he will return for the Champions League semi-final against Chelsea and he will be possessed by the idea of proving point.
Ramos usually doesn’t need extra motivation for these games. The 35-year-old has mastered the art of appearing when it’s most important, doing whatever it takes to control the game and grab a win. Like the late Kobe Bryant in the fourth quarter, Ramos is stepping up.
He will throw his body on the back line, jump out with his head in attack and mix with the spraying of the dark arts when necessary to throw opponents out of their game. Ramos is the player who ate Chelsea alive in the past and will do everything possible to do so on Wednesday.
The experience he brings can be a huge problem for Chelsea’s difficult attack. Timo Werner and Kai Haverz are distrustful, Mason Mount is still young, and Christian Pulisic is still trying to figure it out. None of them would have encountered a beast like Ramos before.
Managing its striking impact from behind will be a real test for Tuhel. So far, the boss has relied on midfielders N’Golo Cante and Jorgeninho to stifle opposition leaders in the heart of the field, but Ramos is a different animal in a different position.
This will require something new from Chelsea, which deserves recognition for its submission to Manchester City in the FA Cup and even Real in the first game. The Blues are obviously figuring out the kind of performances you have to bring when the stakes are high, but as the 5-2 loss to West Brom has shown us, there is still a tendency to collapse.
Chelsea will hope that Ramos is not himself for this and has a good chance not to be. He played only four times in 2021, boasted of more medical ailments appearing this calendar year, and from a physical point of view would probably prefer to return in calmer circumstances.
Saying that as a racing psychopath, Ramos is unlikely to replace this chance to prove himself to the world.
Chelsea will hope to counter Ramos with their own experienced veteran Thiago Silva. The Brazilian has been around the world and played on some of the biggest stages, but despite his eight league titles, even he still has not understood the magic formula in this type of match.
How they will cope, Ramos and his invincible aura will teach Chelsea a lot about themselves. If you want to become a series winner, you have to beat a series winner and the blues come for the king early.