Karim Benzema is playing "the season of his life" as Real Madrid team-mates queued up to praise the inspirational captain after his latest Champions League hat-trick.

French frontman Benzema hit all three of his side's goals in their 3-1 victory at Chelsea on Wednesday, the first leg of a quarter-final tie over which Madrid now have firm control.

That performance in London saw Benzema advance to 37 goals and 13 assists in 36 games this season. His goal involvements total of 50 puts him top of all players from Europe's top five leagues, with Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski second on the list with 49 involvements (45 goals, four assists).

Ten of those goals from Benzema have come in his past four games, with Champions League hat-tricks against Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea sandwiching LaLiga doubles against Real Mallorca and Celta Vigo.

When he was absent against Barcelona due to injury, Madrid looked lost without their talisman and were thumped 4-0 in El Clasico.

Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel sounded a despondent note after the game, warning of the danger of his team being destroyed in next week's second leg if they deliver another lacklustre display.

But Madrid were delighted with the outcome, with star defender David Alaba raving about the 34-year-old Benzema's match-winning turn.

"What he's doing this season is incredible," Alaba said after the game. "I can see how hard he works, and he's having the season of his life, he's very focused and is hungry to score goals. He prepares very well for every game, particularly matches like tonight's. I'm delighted to have him as a team-mate."

Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois spoke of Madrid's "important result" and pinpointed the hat-trick hero, saying: "To go far in the Champions League you need a player like Benzema."

The win at Stamford Bridge will have resonated around Europe, with LaLiga leaders Madrid chasing a 14th European Cup/Champions League triumph this season.

Two early headers from Benzema put Madrid in firm control, before he spurned the chance of a first-half hat-trick when firing wide shortly before the break.

The veteran former Lyon man made up for that miss when he seized on a shocking pass from goalkeeper Edouard Mendy to fire in Madrid's third in the first minute of the second half.

Brazilian midfielder Casemiro said it was important to acknowledge Benzema is going through a special phase in his career.

"Firstly, we've got to talk about Karim’s magic," said Casemiro, quoted on Madrid's official website.

"We simply have to continue to enjoy the player that he is, we appreciate his quality and the player that he is, but many people only see his goals and we see his quality, the type of person he is, and it's extremely important for us that we continue to enjoy having him.

"It was a whole team effort, in terms of the effort, reading the game, knowing how to play, and I think that we understood the game well."

Thibaut Courtois defended Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy after his error gave Real Madrid a two-goal lead in their Champions League quarter-final tie.

Chelsea had rallied after Karim Benzema's sensational quickfire double put Madrid 2-0 up at Stamford Bridge, with Kai Havertz responding shortly before half-time.

But the Blues' hard work was undone almost immediately after the interval, as Mendy's slack pass to Antonio Rudiger invited a challenge from Benzema, who was then able to fire into an open goal to complete his hat-trick.

It was Mendy's first error leading to a goal in the Champions League and only his third across all competitions in two seasons since joining Chelsea.

Although Chelsea had 57.3 per cent of the possession and 20 shots to Madrid's eight, the home side could not hit back again and now face a huge uphill task in the second leg in Spain.

Mendy at least had the sympathy of former Chelsea man Courtois, his opposite number in the Madrid goal.

"The problem if you make a bad pass as a goalkeeper is that there's no one behind, they steal the ball and score," Courtois said.

"He shouldn't be blamed, but a mistake by a goalkeeper is talked about a lot."

As much as 37.5 per cent of the game was played in Madrid's third of the pitch, but Chelsea created chances worth just 1.35 expected goals, even if Courtois would have been more comfortable with the visitors playing further upfield.

"We defended well," he said. "Maybe at times we were too deep and they took advantage of that to create chances. We have to improve on that and move the defensive line a bit higher up.

"We have to make sure we play well in the return leg."

Courtois should find a more supportive crowd in that return leg, having been jeered by the Chelsea fans on Wednesday in his first match back at Stamford Bridge in front of supporters.

The Belgium keeper left Chelsea for Madrid in a €35million transfer in 2018.

"Obviously it's a Champions League game, it's not a friendly," he said of the response.

"I didn't like how my departure from the club was explained, but I think I had really good moments at Stamford Bridge and I've got very fond memories of my time at Chelsea."

Carlo Ancelotti is as impressed by Karim Benzema's leadership and personality as his outstanding goalscoring exploits after another dominant Champions League display.

Benzema became the fourth player in Champions League history to score a hat-trick in consecutive performances on Wednesday.

The France forward netted all three Real Madrid goals in their 3-1 win at Chelsea in the first leg of their quarter-final, having also hit a treble against Paris Saint-Germain in the last-16 second leg.

This was the first hat-trick against Chelsea in any European competition and moved Benzema to 11 goals for the campaign – the most by any Frenchman in the European Cup or Champions League in a single season.

Benzema has 37 goals across all competitions in 2021-22, but the two headers that gave Madrid a two-goal lead at Stamford Bridge have to count among his best.

Now 34, Benzema has never scored more in a season – 32 in 2011-12 was his previous best – but head coach Ancelotti sought to highlight how important he is to the team in other ways. The striker wore the captain's armband in the absence of Marcelo on Wednesday.

"Karim improves every day like a fine wine," said Ancelotti, who returned to the touchline after testing negative for coronavirus.

"He's more and more of a leader in the team, in the group, and I think that's the biggest difference. He shows his personality more, he knows that he is very important to us and he is an example for all."

This was a fourth consecutive win in matches against reigning European champions for Madrid, but Ancelotti warned against complacency heading into the second leg in Spain.

"The team played very well, it was a very good performance. We were brave, we showed personality," he said. "But we are only at half-time in the tie.

"We'll want to have the same approach when we come back, but you never know how it's going to go.

"Obviously, we have the advantage, but the tie is still open. Without the away goal rule, it's an advantage for Chelsea.

"I think we played better than them on the night, but there is still one game and anything can happen."

Rio Ferdinand labelled Karim Benzema the best striker in the world after Real Madrid's 3-1 win at Chelsea on Wednesday.

Benzema's hat-trick at Stamford Bridge was impressive alone as a feat, before even considering how clinically the French striker converted his chances and the fact it was his second Champions League treble in a row.

The 34-year-old became only the fourth player in Champions League history to score back-to-back hat-tricks after Cristiano Ronaldo (2017), Lionel Messi (2016) and Luiz Adriano (2014).

As well as his goalscoring output, the completeness of Benzema's game is what former Manchester United and England defender Ferdinand made particular reference to in his praise, and how he has thrived since Cristiano Ronaldo's departure in 2018.

"He is 34 and he is the best number nine in the world," Ferdinand said on BT Sport. "He is another level – goals, assists, link up play, slowing the game down.

"When Cristiano Ronaldo was there Benzema had the humility to sit in the background because he knew what it meant to the team, but now he has come out of the shadows."

Scoring only 12 goals across all competitions during Ronaldo's final season in Madrid, Benzema has netted over 25 in each season since and, with this hat-trick, is on 37 this term.

While the three-goal haul was pleasing for the France international, the team's performance and the win provided the ultimate satisfaction.

"I will remember it for a long time because they are magical nights, like the other day at the Bernabeu against Paris [Saint-Germain]," Benzema told Movistar.

"We entered the field today to win and we have shown who Real Madrid is. Things have gone well because we played well from the first minute to the last.

"All three are very important goals and I'm happier with the third because I missed one in the first half and I was thinking about it. It's very important to score goals."

Thomas Tuchel slammed Chelsea’s first-half performance in their defeat by Real Madrid, describing it as "one of the worst” he has seen at Stamford Bridge.

The reigning Champions League holders have work to do in the second leg of their quarter-final tie after going down 3-1 against a Karim Benzema-inspired Madrid.

Benzema’s hat-trick proved crucial as former Blues boss Carlo Ancelotti, who only travelled to London on Wednesday after returning a negative COVID-19 test, enjoyed a victorious return to the Bridge.

The France international put Los Blancos in control with a brace of headers the first half – in which the Blues won just 14 of their 36 duels – while capitalising on Edouard Mendy's mistake to complete his treble just after the restart.

That made it back-to-back home defeats for Tuchel’s side, who were also thumped 4-1 by Brentford in the Premier League on Saturday.

Next up for the Blues is a trip to Southampton next weekend before the return leg at Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday.

The German did not hold back in his assessment of the performance, and fears the consequences should his players not raise their levels.

He told BT Sport: "It is a heavy loss. It was one of the worst first halves that I saw from us here at Stamford Bridge. Individually and as a team, it was by far not enough.

"[The] first half was so from any standards that we set ourselves that we cannot complain when we lose.

"We had 12 shots in the second half. You can always come back and win it but when you kill the game by yourself after 45 minutes, it is harder and harder.

"If we keep playing like this, we will lose at Southampton, and then we will get hammered at [Santiago] Bernabeu."

Real Madrid's plans for the transfer window before the start of next season are far from a secret. Their sole aim will be to ensure they do what many expect, and lure Kylian Mbappe from Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer after his contract expires.

If anybody was in any doubt of their ambitions, Karim Benzema reaffirmed them this week.

"Kylian Mbappe could be the third star with Vinicius and me? Yes, I say this a lot of times," Benzema told L'Equipe of his France team-mate.

"With Mbappe we get on well because we know what the other is going to do on the pitch. It's perfect."

But on Wednesday's evidence, Los Blancos may not even need to add Mbappe to their ranks to regain the Champions League.

Indeed, the argument for Madrid as a team ready to reclaim what they see as their rightful place atop European football is an increasingly compelling one after Carlo Ancelotti's men took a commanding 3-1 lead in their quarter-final tie with holders Chelsea.

It was the ruthlessness of Benzema that put the Blues to the sword at Stamford Bridge, Madrid clinically taking advantage of the passivity of opponents whose exertions in going seven games unbeaten in normal time in all competitions amid a club crisis appear to be rapidly catching up with them.

Madrid followed Brentford, 4-1 winners at the same ground last Saturday, in slicing through a Blues defence who had conceded just two goals in their last five games prior to being stung by the Bees.

Chelsea could take some solace in suffering at the hands or, in this case, the head of Benzema in the first half. His pair of deft headers to put Madrid 2-0 up inside 24 minutes were of the highest quality, coming from Vinicius Junior and Luka Modric crosses that were themselves worthy of great admiration.

And, with Kai Havertz halving the deficit, making this fixture the first Champions League knockout game to see three headers scored in the first half since Bayern Munich versus Porto in the 2014-15 quarter-final, Thomas Tuchel's men could afford reason for hope.

Chelsea's confidence may have been boosted further when Benzema skewed a gilt-edged chance for a hat-trick wide late in the opening period but, soon after the restart, he had his treble, courtesy of a huge inadvertent assist.

Edouard Mendy came way out of his goal to collect an innocuous punt forward and sent his attempted pass to Antonio Rudiger short. A grateful Benzema intervened and rolled a simple finish into an empty net.

It marked a second successive Champions League hat-trick from Benzema, following on from his remarkable second-half barrage against Paris Saint-Germain that knocked out Mbappe, Neymar and Lionel Messi at the last-16 stage.

He became the fourth player to score a hat-trick in back-to-back Champions Leagues appearances after Cristiano Ronaldo (2017), Messi (2016) and Luiz Adriano (2014).

This latest prolific display, which took Benzema to 37 goals and 50 goal involvements for the season, was in part a product of his enduring brilliance and partly a mess of Chelsea's own making.

But it means he is now on a run of scoring at least two goals in each of his last four goals for Madrid. The only other player to score a brace in four consecutive appearances in the 'big five' European leagues this season? Yes, Kylian Mbappe.

There is no striker at this level in a richer vein of form than Benzema and, should he continue his incredible run, the mission for Mbappe if he does make the anticipated move to Madrid may not be to re-establish their European superiority, but to maintain it.

Karim Benzema scored a second successive Champions League hat-trick as Real Madrid beat Chelsea 3-1 in their quarter-final first leg.

Benzema's treble – just four weeks after doing the same against Paris Saint-Germain in the round of 16 – helped Carlo Ancelotti's side take command of the tie at Stamford Bridge.

The France international put the 13-time European champions in control with a brace of first-half headers, before capitalising on Edouard Mendy's mistake to complete his hat-trick 46 seconds after the restart.

Kai Havertz grabbed what proved to be a consolation for the reigning champions, who have work to do in the second leg next week after suffering their first ever defeat against Madrid.  

Madrid took the lead in the 21st minute when Benzema released Vinicius down the left flank before brilliantly powering a 14-yard header into the top corner.

The visitors were in dreamland just three minutes later as Benzema wonderfully guided Luka Modric’s fizzed cross beyond Edouard Mendy to take his tally in this season's Champions League into double figures.

Chelsea responded five minutes before the break with Havertz ghosting into the box to head home an inviting centre by Jorginho.

But the hosts were architects of their own downfall within a minute of the restart. An alert Benzema intercepted Mendy's poor square ball to Antonio Rudiger, before sliding into the empty net for his 10th goal in four matches across all competitions.

Thomas Tuchel's side looked to respond and Cesar Azpilicueta's long-range thunderbolt drew a magnificent save out of Courtois, while Romelu Lukaku headed wide from eight yards out.

Mason Mount was then whiskers away from seeing his curling 25-yard effort nestle in the top corner, but the Blues suffered their first loss in nine European games against Spanish opposition.

What does it mean? Madrid in command

Madrid arrived at Stamford Bridge targeting a first win on English soil since a 3-0 victory over Liverpool during the 2014-15 season.

But Los Blancos ended their drought in style and have now lost just once in their last nine Champions League matches against the reigning champions.

Brilliant Benzema

It was another memorable outing for Benzema, who became the first player to score a hat-trick against Chelsea in European competition.

The France international, who is the first player from his country to net 10 or more goals during a single Champions League campaign, is also only the fourth different player to bag successive trebles in the competition.

Mendy mistake

Chelsea came into the first leg boasting 10 clean sheets from their 15 Champions League clean sheets under Tuchel, but recording an 11th was always going to be a challenge here.

Although he was blameless for both of Benzema's headers, Mendy gifted the striker with his hat-trick goal when he miscued his attempted pass to Rudiger and he will hope that error does not prove costly in the context of the tie.

Key Opta Facts

- Real Madrid have now beaten the holders of the Champions League in each of their last four such encounters, and for the sixth time in total – now the outright most of any side in the history of the competition (Juventus 5).

- Chelsea have suffered back-to-back home defeats for only the second time under Thomas Tuchel, also doing so in April last year. The Blues have also shipped three or more goals in consecutive matches at Stamford Bridge for the first time since October 2012.

- Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema (11) has now scored more goals than any other Frenchman in a single European Cup/Champions League campaign, moving one clear of Just Fontaine's 10-goal tally back in 1958-59.

- Since the formation of the Champions League in 1992-93, only one of the previous 43 sides has overturned a first-leg deficit of two or more goals going into the second leg away from home, with Manchester United beating Paris Saint-Germain at the last-16 stage in 2018-19.

What's next?

The two sides renew their rivalry in the second leg at Santiago Bernabeu next Tuesday. Before that, Madrid host Getafe in LaLiga on Saturday, while Chelsea travel to Southampton in the Premier League.

Real Madrid will be boosted by the presence of head coach Carlo Ancelotti against Chelsea on Wednesday following his recovery from coronavirus.

Ancelotti contracted COVID-19 last week and was absent for Madrid's 2-1 win at Celta Vigo at the weekend.

The former Chelsea boss was also expected to miss a return to Stamford Bridge in the first leg of Madrid's Champions League quarter-final.

But a Madrid statement on the morning of the game announced Ancelotti was travelling to London to join his squad following a negative test result.

"Real Madrid C.F. is pleased to announce that our coach Carlo Ancelotti has returned a negative result for COVID-19," the statement read, "and will therefore travel to London this morning to join up with the first team."

Madrid, knocked out of last season's competition by Chelsea, will be looking for a first win against the Blues in six attempts.

This fixture sees the Spanish giants' worst winless record against any opposition in European competition.

However, no English team have previously eliminated Madrid from the knockout stages of the Champions League on multiple occasions.

The business end of the Champions League usually throws up familiar rivalries, with Europe's big guns so often getting to the latter stages of the competition.

Wednesday sees a repeat of last season's semi-final as Chelsea and Real Madrid contest a tie brimming with European pedigree, but last year's Europa League winners Villarreal are playing the increasingly customary role of Champions League disruptor.

From Atalanta to Ajax to Lyon, there seems to be one club that manages to punch above their weight in relation to Europe's elite in recent seasons, and Unai Emery's side will have their work cut against Bayern Munich.

We take a look at both games using Opta facts, which suggest two enticing matchups as well as contrasts of style.

Chelsea v Real Madrid

As mentioned, this is the second consecutive season in which Chelsea and Madrid have met in the knockout stages of the Champions League. The Blues could become the first English team to eliminate Los Blancos from the knockout stages of the competition on multiple occasions, having progressed 3-1 on aggregate in last season's semi-final.

That tie was notable for the first leg, in one of the few times former head coach Zinedine Zidane went away from his usual midfield of Toni Kroos, Casemiro and Luka Modric, and with a rare 3-4-3 formation. If not for Edouard Mendy's early heroics to deny Karim Benzema, the second leg at Stamford Bridge when Zidane reverted could have also panned out differently.

However, Chelsea are unbeaten in their last eight games against Spanish opposition, with their last defeat coming at Stamford Bridge under Frank Lampard as Valencia won 1-0.

Meanwhile, Madrid have lost only one of their last eight Champions League games when facing the holders, while they have won each of the last three without conceding a goal.

Benzema is coming into this tie in intimidatingly good form, and following his hat trick against Paris Saint-Germain in the last-16, his season tally of eight Champions League goals is the highest of his career.

Since Thomas Tuchel has taken over at Chelsea, they have been close to impenetrable defensively. From his first Champions League game with them in February 2021, the Blues have kept a clean sheet in 10 out of 15 games.

 

Villarreal v Bayern Munich

This is only the second meeting between the two clubs after the 2011-12 season, when Bayern won 3-1 at home and 2-0 away before ultimately reaching and losing the final.

This will be Villarreal's first game in the Champions League quarter-finals since 2009, when they were eliminated by Arsenal. Overall, they have only won one of their six games at this stage of the competition or later, a 1-0 victory at home to Inter in 2006.

While the approach from Emery will be almost certain to try to contain, Bayern have scored an astonishing 101 goals in the Champions League since they were last held to a clean sheet, against Liverpool in 2019.

They have won 26 out of the previous 34 games since, averaging 3.4 goals a game over that span.

Robert Lewandowski has naturally been key to that, scoring 12 goals in eight Champions League appearances this term, and is one of three players to enter a quarter-final stage with that many goals – the other two being Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Much like against Juventus, the question will be how long will the periods of containment be for Villarreal, in order to make their forays in the opposite half truly count?

 

Thibaut Courtois does not anticipate Carlo Ancelotti's expected absence to be a problem for Real Madrid in their Champions League quarter-final first leg.

Ancelotti tested positive for COVID-19 last week, and was absent for Los Blancos' 2-1 win at Celta Vigo on Saturday.

He is anticipated to be unavailable again when Madrid face his and Courtois' former club Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. 

As of Tuesday, Ancelotti was still testing positive - preventing him from making the trip to London - though the Italian could travel if he returns a negative test on Wednesday.

Speaking about playing without Ancelotti's guidance, Courtois told a media conference: "Luckily, his assistant is his son, so it's quite similar!

"But, there's a complete and good staff there, and it has been possible to have a video call with him.

"As for his absence from the dugout, I think the coaching staff did very well in Vigo and I don't think it'll be much of a problem here."

Chelsea knocked out Madrid in the semi-final stage en route to lifting the trophy last season.

The Blues won the return leg at Stamford Bridge 2-0 to claim a 3-1 aggregate triumph.

However, with the second leg this time around taking place at Santiago Bernabeu, Courtois is hopeful of Madrid producing a different result provided they can head back to the Spanish capital still alive in the tie.

Madrid produced a stunning turnaround at the Bernabeu to eliminate Paris Saint-Germain in the last 16; Karim Benzema scoring three times in 17 minutes to give them a 3-1 win on the night and a 3-2 aggregate victory.

"It's a new season," Courtois added. "Last season was different since it was semi-finals and later in the season, there were no fans then, and it was the second leg that we played away.

"We saw in the last round how we pulled off a comeback at the Bernabeu. We want to bring this tie back to the Bernabeu, too.

"The [scrapping of the] away goal rule changes it a little. We saw that in the last round when the 2-1 turnaround had already earned us at least extra time, even though we won 3-1 anyway.

"Before, we'd have known that we needed three goals. I think that's a good rule change."

Thomas Tuchel is anticipating a "special" experience for Chelsea ahead of their tie against Real Madrid and the Blues rates Karim Benzema as one of the best players in the world.

Chelsea host LaLiga leaders Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final on Wednesday. Tuchel's team beat Los Blancos 3-1 over two legs in the semi-finals last season en route to becoming European champions for a second time.

The holders could become the first English team to eliminate Madrid from the knockout stages of the competition on multiple occasions.

History is certainly on Chelsea's side, with Madrid having faced the team from west London more times without winning than they have against any other side in European competition (five).

Madrid have been crowned European champions a record 13 times, and under Zinedine Zidane, won the Champions League for three straight seasons between 2015-16 and 2017-18.

While Tuchel is relishing a memorable occasion when his side faces a heavyweight of world football, though he is confident Chelsea will not be overawed.

"It's hard to keep that record," he said of Madrid's recent failure to reach the Champions League final, which they last did in 2018 when Gareth Bale inspired them to victory over Liverpool.

"They won it three times, this competition [in a row], they did it with a very similar squad over a long period of time which is absolutely impressive, outstanding.

"I think it's normal that cycles like this change at some point, in terms of winning streaks, reaching the final, and this is what happened to them. We should be very aware that teams with this type of flair, experience and quality can produce special moments and nights and occasions.

"For us it's also a pretty special occasion – to play against Real Madrid in a quarter-final – and so that's why we feel pretty excited and we don’t lose too much sleep to think about where they are in Europe.

"We want to prove a point, prove it to ourselves, that's the target. The occasion is special and the opponent is special and that's why we are very excited about it."

Asked whether last season's tie has any bearing on this month's matches, Tuchel replied: "I think it has nothing to do with last season's game. Honestly. I did not look at it in the preparation."

Benzema netted Madrid's only goal in that tie and the striker is the reason that Carlo Ancelotti's team progressed to the last eight this time around, with his hat-trick dumping Paris Saint-Germain out in the last 16.

The 34-year-old has scored eight goals in the Champions League this season, which is already his most in a single campaign. If he scores in this game, he would set a new season-best for goals by a Frenchman in the competition.

"I said maybe two years ago he was one of the most underrated players in world football," Tuchel said of Benzema.

"I think maybe not anymore, which he absolutely deserves because he plays for so many years as a number nine for Madrid, speaks for itself, and what he did in the last stage for them, how he carried the responsibility and what a key part he plays for them as a captain now, is very impressive.

"For sure a standout personality but again right now, in this very moment, very unfair to Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Casemiro, all the guys who have carried this team so successfully almost a decade now."

Chelsea's preparations for the first leg could hardly be considered positive, given they lost 4-1 at home to Brentford on Saturday in the Premier League, and Tuchel is expecting better from not only his players, but the Stamford Bridge faithful too.

"We need it and we need to be better on the pitch. We're the first to admit it, but we need the crowd to be better. We need everybody on the front foot," he added.

Thibaut Courtois said "the adventure continues" as he spoke about his desire to win the Champions League with Real Madrid ahead of a reunion with former club Chelsea.

Los Blancos travel to Stamford Bridge for the first leg of their quarter-final on Wednesday, a repeat of last year's semi-final, which Thomas Tuchel's side won 3-1 on aggregate before eventually lifting the trophy.

Despite winning numerous honours throughout his career, it is a competition Courtois has never gone all the way in and the Belgian stopper is aiming to do something about that this season.

Speaking to Madrid's official website ahead of the first-leg clash in London, Courtois said: "I've won many trophies, but the Champions League is the biggest in club football and I haven't won it yet.

"It would obviously be very special for me to win it before I retire. I've still got time. I'll keep on trying to follow my dreams and the Champions League is one of them. The adventure continues."

 

The 29-year-old was a runner-up in the 2014 Champions League final while playing for Atletico Madrid, coincidentally losing to his current team in Lisbon.

Courtois also made 154 appearances in all competitions for Chelsea before moving to the Santiago Bernabeu in 2018, and is hoping he gets a welcoming reception.

"I hope it's a happy return to Stamford Bridge," he said. "We're now rivals. They'll want to win and the same goes for me too and so I'm not expecting any applause from the fans. I hope that they don't boo me, but you never know.

"I’m prepared for whatever comes and we'll have to see how it goes. I'm happy to be returning there with fans in the stands because last year when we played them the stadium was empty."

Christian Eriksen has been in sparkling form since returning to action with Brentford following his cardiac arrest at Euro 2020.

Inter allowed Eriksen to end his contract after the Denmark international was unable to play in Serie A after having a cardiac device implant fitted, allowing the Bees to sign him on a six-month deal.

Eriksen has since scored for both club and country, and his form has some familiar faces swirling.

 

TOP STORY – TOTTENHAM WANT ERISKEN REUNION

With his return to health, and some form, Tottenham want to bring Eriksen back to the club where he made a name for himself in England.

Eriksen departed from Ajax in 2013, and would spend seven seasons with Spurs, scoring 69 goals in 305 appearances, before signing with Antonio Conte's Inter in Serie A.

As luck would have it, Conte is now the man in charge at Tottenham, and The Daily Mail is reporting he would like to bring Eriksen back on a free transfer when his contract expires at the end of this season.

Spurs will have some competition, though, as it is also reported that Manchester United will be seeking the Dane's services.

 

ROUND-UP

– The Liverpool Echo is reporting that Jurgen Klopp is "happy" with the fact that Mohamed Salah and "decisive parties" are talking to each other regarding a contract extension at Liverpool.

– If Salah was to leave the club, FourFourTwo is reporting that Liverpool will explore replacing him with Paris Saint-Germain superstar Kylian Mbappe – while according to RMC Sport, a third "mystery team" has entered the race for Mbappe, with Real Madrid also circling.

– Real Madrid will be offering out Eden Hazard on loan for the 2022-23 season, according to AS.

– Union Berlin's Nigerian striker Taiwo Awoniyi will fetch a price of £25million if Newcastle, West Ham or Southampton want to prise him away, per Bild.

– The Daily Mirror is reporting that Newcastle could offer England midfielder Kalvin Phillips a contract worth £120,000 per week to lure him away from Leeds United.

Kylian Mbappe could help Real Madrid score "triple" the amount of goals if he were to join from Paris Saint-Germain, according to Los Blancos striker Karim Benzema.

France superstar Mbappe is nearing the end of his PSG contract and has been continually linked with a move to the Santiago Bernabeu, a transfer that would see him link up with Les Bleus team-mate Benzema.

Mbappe has 28 goals and 20 assists from 38 appearances across all competitions this season, while Benzema is top of LaLiga's goalscoring charts with 24.

Speaking with L'Equipe, Benzema said he is excited by the prospect of playing alongside Mbappe at Madrid.

"I like to play with [Mbappe] in the national team, and I would like to play with him in the club," he said.

"I think [Madrid] would score twice as many goals – or maybe even triple."

Benzema also discussed his goals with the national team after returning from a six-year exile last year.

"[Playing for France] is a pride for me, and I am happy," he said.

"There is a good adaptation, the level is very high, and that is what I like the most. Now I want to win a trophy with the France team."

Benzema missed Real Madrid's 4-0 El Clasico humbling at the hands of Barcelona and said it was not just the margin of victory that was concerning but the manner in which it took place.

"El Clasico, from the stands, I had a bad time," he said. "We were on a good run, and we had everything [in place] to continue.

"In fact, you can lose a match 4-0, don't worry. But not like that. 

"We didn't show anything, we didn't try, we didn't show who we were. We let them play."

Real Madrid will be back in action on Wednesday in Champions League quarter-final action at Stamford Bridge, with Benzema saying: "Chelsea are a great team, and we will try to get a good result in London."

Kylian Mbappe insisted there is no agreement to take him to Real Madrid after his majestic performance drove Paris Saint-Germain to a 5-1 victory over Lorient on Sunday.

The France international scored twice and assisted the other three PSG goals, with Neymar getting two and Lionel Messi the other, as Mauricio Pochettino's side maintained their 12-point lead at the Ligue 1 summit.

Uncertainty remains over where Mbappe will play next season, with Madrid leading the charge for the signature of the forward whose contract expires at the end of the current campaign.

Mbappe reiterated in the aftermath of the win against Lorient that a decision has yet to be taken, perhaps raising the possibility he could stay in Paris.

"No, no, no, I did not make my choice, everyone knows that I did not make my choice, I did not make my decision," he told Prime Video.

"I think because there are new elements, there are lots of things, lots of parameters and I don't want to be wrong, I want to make the right choice.

"I know that for the people, it's a little late, we talk about it every day. If I had made my decision I would say it, I don't have to report to anyone. It's a personal choice, if I made my decision, I come, I say it and I assume it.

"I think that, in the good things and the bad things that I have done, I have always assumed, I don't have to hide myself, I haven't killed anybody. It's just a choice, so I take my time and I want to make the best decision possible."

Neymar and Messi –,the latter ending a run of seven games without a goal – joined Mbappe on the scoresheet in the same game for the first time.

Brazilian star Neymar was delighted with the evening's work, with PSG showing positive signs after being jolted by last month's Champions League exit at the hands of Real Madrid.

"I'm happy with the victory," Neymar told Prime Video. "We knew this championship was difficult. We have to keep winning and show that we want this 10th title.

"Losing is very difficult. What happened against Madrid, that gave us a lot of harm. We must continue to move forward. We wanted to go to the end of the Champions League, but unfortunately we were eliminated. It's difficult for the public to accept defeat, but for us too it was hard."

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