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Chelsea learn Champions League quarterfinal fate amid sanctions turmoil

Chelsea will face record 13-time winners Real Madrid in the Champions League quarterfinals as the London club’s defense of their title continues. 

The draw for the elite continental club competition’s next fixtures was made on Friday, and elsewhere placed Premier League leaders Manchester City against Atletico Madrid, Villarreal against Bayern Munich, and Benfica against Liverpool. 

Chelsea will host Real Madrid at Stamford Bridge on April 6, before the return leg at the Bernabeu on April 12.

Given EU and UK sanctions imposed on owner Roman Abramovich, it is possible that Chelsea may have to play their home leg behind closed doors as they won’t be able to sell tickets to either their own fans or those traveling from the Spanish capital.

For the away leg, Chelsea will also have to operate on a strict travel budget as part of their special license to continue playing matches due to Abramovich’s assets being frozen.  

The draw for the semifinals was also determined, and set up potential all-English or all-Spanish showdowns.

The winners of Manchester City versus Atletico Madrid will play either Chelsea or Real Madrid, while whoever wins between Benfica and Liverpool will play either Villarreal or Bayern in the second semifinal final.

This year’s final had been due to be played in the Russian city of St. Petersburg on May 28, but was moved to the Stade de France in Paris after Russia launched its military offensive in Ukraine.

Reigning champions Chelsea reached the quarterfinals by seeing off last season’s Ligue 1 winners Lille 4-1 on aggregate.

First beating the French team 2-0 at home, they topped them again 2-1 at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy on Wednesday thanks to goals from Christian Pulisic and captain Cesar Azpilicueta either side of the half-time whistle.

Chelsea are currently riding a five-game win streak and look to advance in the FA Cup on Saturday where they face Middlesbrough away, also in the quarter-finals.

Following the international break, Brentford play them at home in the Premier League prior to the first installment of the Real Madrid clash. 

By then, the club could have been handed over to new owners after Roman Abramovich put it up for sale before being sanctioned, with the deadline for bids from prospective buyers set for Friday, March 18. 

Chelsea versus Real Madrid, which pits the current champions against the tournament’s all-time record winners and La Liga’s champions-elect, is arguably the pick of the quarterfinal draw, and is a repeat of last season’s semifinal meeting between the pair, which Chelsea won 3-1 across the two legs. 

Some may argue that Manchester City – who Chelsea beat in last season’s final – versus Atletico Madrid has just as much appeal in this year’s competition. 

While pitting two of the world’s best coaches against one another in Diego Simeone and Pep Guardiola, that fixture also sees the current champions of England and Spain’s top flights looking for a place in the semifinals at each other’s expense.

Dumping Juventus out of the competition with a thrilling, late 3-0 win on Wednesday, Villarreal will have a mountain to climb against Bayern Munich if they want to reach the last four.

A daunting task also awaits Benfica, who managed to advance out of a group containing the Bavarians and FC Barcelona, but must now overcome Liverpool after beating Ajax midweek.

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