The year-long delay to Euro 2020 has shifted the narrative for a host of stars, and meant the long wait for a return to the big stage has been extended for others.

Now, though, Europe's elite are set to battle it out as Portugal defend the title they won in France five years ago.

Some players enter the competition in great form and with little baggage, but for others this month-long tournament is a chance to make a big splash, or live up to long-held expectations.

Here, Stats Perform looks at two famous footballing nations, four big-name stars and a coach who bows out of his current job and may have designs on his next assignment.

Gareth Bale: Finished or a new beginning?

The wing wizard can do little wrong in the eyes of Wales and Tottenham supporters, and perhaps now there is a glimmer of hope for his Real Madrid career.

At the end of a season-long loan at Spurs, it seemed likely Bale would head back to Madrid and spend the final year of his contract largely on the sidelines. His future looked to be one of training, playing the odd Copa del Rey game and making fleeting LaLiga appearances, and spending his happiest hours on the region's best golf courses.

Now that Zinedine Zidane has moved on, that could change all of a sudden, and Bale has an immediate chance to make an impression on new Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti when he captains Wales at the Euros.

Bale joined Madrid in 2013, when Ancelotti was embarking on his first spell at the Santiago Bernabeu, but his career in Spain looked to have all but conked out 12 months ago.

The door certainly seems open for the 31-year-old to do just that as, in his presentation news conference at Madrid, Ancelotti said: "Gareth has not played much in the Premier League [in 2020-21], but he scored lots of goals, and was very effective in recent games when he had a chance to play.

"He is coming back, I know him very well, he will be motivated to play better and have a great season, no doubt."

At Spurs, he scored 16 goals across all competitions at an average of one every 104.44 minutes, and his match fitness appeared to be building up nicely when the season ended.

Bale exceeded his expected goals (xG) total of 11.07 quite handsomely, and for the first time since the 2015-16 season he scored more goals than he had big chances.

He had 15 such chances, defined by Opta as situations "where a player should reasonably be expected to score".

Bale is said by some observers to be considering retiring after Euro 2020, but that could be a waste of a still-luminous talent and Ancelotti is sure to be closely watching.

Eden Hazard: Brilliant Belgian has been a Real disappointment

So often sparkling for Belgium and Chelsea in the past, Hazard has left Madrid supporters wondering what has happened to that fizz since he landed in Spain.

He started just seven games in LaLiga in the season just ended, a string of muscle injuries and a spell out with COVID-19 ruining his campaign.

When fit enough to feature, the forward's numbers have been way down on those that he produced – to take a pertinent example – during Belgium's Euro 2020 qualifying campaign.

A fair way of assessing his figures is to look at how Hazard contributes for every 90 minutes he is involved with club and country, and the comparison between his displays in Belgium's run to reach this tournament and in 2020-21 at Madrid shows an alarming dip.

His chances created total per 90 minutes falls from 4.6 to 1.0, his number of touches of the ball slides from 95.1 to 73.8, and his dribbles attempted plummet from 7.4 with Belgium to 4.2 in Madrid's season.

His involvements in shot-ending sequences of play fall from 10.8 to 4.9 per 90 minutes, and analysis of goal-ending sequences shows his contribution drops from 1.9 with Belgium to 0.8 per 90 minutes with Madrid.

It bears remembering that Hazard has not had the run of games that would give him full match fitness. If Real Madrid fans want any succour, they can find it in his Belgium statistics and must hope the coming month sees the 30-year-old roll back his form a couple of years.

A fit and firing Hazard would be a huge asset to Ancelotti, who is expecting the former Chelsea star to have an impact next term.

"Hazard is a top player, he has had injury problems, and not shown his top potential yet here," Ancelotti said. "I believe he can do that next year, he wants to, is motivated."

 

Karim Benzema: Have France really missed him?

Nobody doubts Benzema's ability or his current form. Firing 23 goals for Real Madrid in LaLiga showed he is coming into Euro 2020 in great shape.

The thing is: few expected him to play any part in this tournament.

Off-field matters and an impending court case have seen Benzema frozen out by France, the 33-year-old sidelined from international duty since 2015 following allegations he had a part in a plot to blackmail former Les Bleus player Mathieu Valbuena.

Benzema strenuously denies any wrongdoing and for the duration of Euro 2020 he will aim to show what France have been missing in his absence. They managed to win the 2018 World Cup without him, and reach the final of Euro 2016, yet coach Didier Deschamps has decided his team need Benzema's presence for the coming month.

It could be a masterstroke or could go disastrously wrong, with France a national team who have combusted before during a big tournament.

Benzema last year made the snippy remark that Olivier Giroud was a go-kart and he, by contrast, was a Formula One car, but now they are rivals for selection.

Squad harmony is vital at any major championship, and Benzema's presence brings that little extra frisson. This gamble could go either way. Watching him and France will be fascinating.

Marcus Rashford: Making his pitch for a better England

Manchester United striker Rashford has been a pandemic social justice warrior, emerging as an inspirational figure as he battled for school children to avoid food poverty.

There is so much to admire about the 23-year-old Mancunian, who has also faced – and faced down – appalling racism on social media.

It would take a cold, cruel heart to begrudge Rashford a major moment on the pitch now, and that could come with England over the coming weeks.

On the international scene since just before Euro 2016, Rashford is now fixtures-and-fittings within the Three Lions set-up, but he has still yet to score at a World Cup or European Championship.

Before June's pre-Euros friendlies he had 40 caps and 11 goals and will want to improve his so-so goals-to-games ratio, which is partly explained by the fact only 20 of those caps came as a starter.

Golden Boot winner Harry Kane carried so much of the scoring burden for England at the last World Cup, and sometimes it takes two. Rashford scored three times in Euro 2020 qualifying and is coming off a 21-goal campaign with United, scoring on average once every 197.76 minutes.

The man who is effecting positive change in the way many live their lives, influencing politicians and shaping a better future for millions, could now do his country a massive favour on the football field.

 

Scotland: They're back, thanks to Mourinho's former right-hand man

Few in the Scotland team are long enough in the teeth to remember the last time the Tartan Army descended on a major tournament.

It was 1998, with the Scots giving Brazil a major test in the opening game at the Stade de France. A draw followed against Norway followed the 2-1 loss to the Selecao, before a dismal defeat to Morocco meant the campaign ended in crushing disappointment.

Hopes have flickered and foundered in the decades since, but Steve Clarke, once an assistant boss to Jose Mourinho at Chelsea, has led his team back to the big time.

With the likes of Andy Robertson, Scott McTominay and Che Adams, they possess Premier League quality, and two games Hampden promise to be nourishing for the soul.

Scotland is an expectant nation. That tends to end in intense disappointment at major tournaments, but optimism abounds as the games approach, the June 18 clash with England at Wembley ringed in the diary.

Italy: Blue skies again for Azzurri

It felt absurd that Italy should be absent from the 2018 World Cup, but they failed the meritocracy test of qualification when losing a play-off to Sweden.

That meant they were absent from football's great global gathering for the first time since 1958, and coach Gian Piero Ventura was swiftly given the heave-ho.

Enter Roberto Mancini, the former Inter and Manchester City boss who has led a scorching revival of the Azzurri, a team who won all 10 of their qualifiers and headed into June on a 26-game unbeaten run.

Wales, Turkey and Switzerland are the group-stage opposition for Italy, and the Turkey game in Istanbul gets the tournament underway.

They are a team perhaps without a superstar, but as Paolo Rossi and Toto Schillaci would attest, iconic Italian figures can emerge on the big stage.

Joachim Low: Hit for six, Germany go back to the future

After 15 years, Low will step down as Germany head coach following these finals. Many in Germany think he should have stepped aside already, but Low has powerful support within the DFB, the national federation.

A 6-0 defeat to Spain in the Nations League last November felt like an appalling nadir, with Germany outshot 23-2 in Seville and having just 30 per cent of possession.

Something had to change and it has, with Low summoning Thomas Muller and Mats Hummels out of the international exile he harshly imposed on the experienced pair over two years ago.

Low felt he could do without their talents but it proved a major misstep, and for Germany's sake they are back. What Low does next remains to be seen, but a strong Euro 2020 campaign with Germany would bolster his chances of landing any elite club job.

The 61-year-old was a World Cup winner seven years ago, but the most immediately telling part of his legacy will be written during this European summer.

Eden Hazard insists he has no intention of leaving Real Madrid just yet despite failing to hit the heights expected since his move from Chelsea.

Hazard signed a five-year contract with Madrid in 2019, joining for a reported initial fee of just over €100million after seven successful years at Stamford Bridge.

However, injuries have blighted the Belgium star's time in Spain, and he has only started 21 LaLiga matches over the past two seasons.

Hazard made the first XI only 11 times in 2020-21 in all competitions, scoring four times and providing two assists, while footage of him sharing a joke with former Chelsea team-mates after Madrid's Champions League semi-final defeat infuriated fans and media in the Spanish capital.

It has been reported Madrid are prepared to cut their losses on Hazard and listen to offers in the region of €50m in the next transfer window, but the 30-year-old is not prepared to give up on his Santiago Bernabeu career.

"I still have three years of contract at Real Madrid. I like the club. I like the players. I will give everything next season for this club. I don't see myself leaving Real Madrid now," he said on Monday.

"We all know the first two years has been bad because of the injuries. I know myself and I know if I'm fully fit, I can do great things for this club.

"First of all I want to think about the Euros, then I'll give everything for this club next season. That's my club.

"I still have good years ahead of me. I was injured at Chelsea and came back to a good level. I just need match rhythm. I don't have many minutes in my legs."

Asked to sum up his season, Hazard replied: "Unlucky.

"Everything has gone well since the start of my career. I've never had many injuries. It's been different for a year and a half.

"I know I can't put everything down to bad luck, but there's been a lot. The coronavirus crisis, the injuries. I was always strong when I could play lots of matches in a row; now, that wasn't possible.

"I'm close to my good level. I just have to get match rhythm now. I'll do everything I can not to get injured."

Hazard is with the Belgium squad preparing for friendly matches against Greece and Croatia this week.

Roberto Martinez's side begin their Euro 2020 campaign against Russia in St Petersburg on June 12.

Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos will be fit for a decisive weekend in LaLiga's title race, news that also hands Spain a major boost for Euro 2020.

Eden Hazard, though, has sustained an injury that will rule him out on Saturday, after head coach Zinedine Zidane delivered a pre-match injury update at his news conference.

Real Madrid are two points behind leaders and city rivals Atletico Madrid ahead of the final round of fixtures.

Atleti travel to relegation-threatened Real Valladolid while Real Madrid are at home to seventh-placed Villarreal.

If Atleti are crowned LaLiga champions it means Madrid will end the season without a major trophy, and there has been speculation that Zidane will quit as head coach.

But the presence of Ramos, who has been restricted to 15 top-flight appearances after sustaining a series of injuries this season, will lift the spirits of Madrid as well as giving Spain cause for cheer.

The defender has been out since he suffered a hamstring injury against Chelsea on May 5. That had been his first Madrid appearance for seven weeks after a previous absence.

"Yes, tomorrow he will be with us," Zidane said about Ramos. "Then, in the team, you will see him.

"I would always take Sergio [to the Euros if I was in charge] – always, whatever happens. He is one who always gives everything.

"Hazard has something. Not much, but we don't want to risk. If he doesn't train with the team, it's because something's wrong with him. That's it. So, he won't be there.

"It is a special day; it is the last game of a league with difficulties. We know who we are going to play against, a team that is doing very well. We are going to strive to get the three points."

Eden Hazard believes Lille winning Ligue 1 this season would be a greater achievement than when he inspired the club to a domestic double a decade ago.

Belgium star Hazard enjoyed a breakout campaign in 2010-11 when Lille won Ligue 1 and the Coupe de France.

He left for Chelsea after the following season, when he retained the Ligue 1 Player of the Year crown, but has kept a keen eye on Les Dogues ever since, having joined the club at 14 and progressed through the youth ranks.

"I owe almost everything to Lille," he said in an interview with the club's official website.

"If I am here today, it is partly thanks to the people I met in the north [of France], to the coaches, but also to all those whom I was able to meet during these years. 

"They all have a part in my success."

 

Christophe Galtier's current vintage will wrap up an improbable Ligue 1 success this weekend if they are able to match Paris Saint-Germain's result.

PSG are away at relegation-threatened Brest, while Lille travel to mid-table Angers, although last weekend's frustrating 0-0 draw against Saint-Etienne has done plenty to set nerves jangling – their advantage at the summit trimmed to a solitary point.

Bolstered by the lavish wealth of their Qatari owners, PSG have won seven of the past eight French titles, with Monaco's success in 2016-17 the outlier.

"Honestly, if [Lille] are champions this season, it would be even better than us in 2011, because there is now the Qatar version of PSG, which makes this championship even more difficult to win," Hazard added.

"The supporters deserve it. When we won this double, they had to wait over 50 years to see the club lift a trophy. And in this complicated period, it would be good for everyone. 

"The people of the north deserve it and especially the players."

Roberto Martinez said Eden Hazard's condition is the best he's had for a long time after picking the Real Madrid forward in his 26-man squad for Euro 2020.

Hazard features in the squad despite the former Chelsea star continuing to endure a difficult spell with Madrid.

He has once again battled several injuries during the 2020-21 campaign, limiting him to just seven starts in 14 LaLiga appearances.

Those appearances have resulted in three goals and a pair of assists, with Hazard creating six chances for his team-mates in the league.

But Martinez is now satisfied with his fitness levels, with the focus for Hazard now on finishing the season strong for Madrid, who host Villarreal on Saturday knowing they must better Atletico Madrid's result at Real Valladolid to win LaLiga.

Hazard played just 13 minutes in Sunday's 1-0 win over Athletic Bilbao, touching the ball 18 times and without creating a single chance or having a shot at goal.

 

But Martinez told a media conference: "The situation with him is we know exactly where he is, his condition is the best he's had for a long time.

"The level of fitness is really satisfactory, we look also at how important he is for the national team. [It's] important he finishes the season strongly for Real Madrid." 

There are few surprises in the Belgium squad, with Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku, FA Cup final hero Youri Tielemans and Dries Mertens all selected.

Divock Origi misses out after a season in which he has been involved in only nine Premier League games for Liverpool.

De Bruyne's involvement in the Champions League final on May 29 will have no impact on their preparations for the rescheduled tournament, Martinez stressed.

"The date we'll meet is the 31st May and we'll be preparing [for] two friendlies," he added. 

"De Bruyne is [our] only player in the final and will be joining the squad on 7th June. Each player's individual needs are being catered for.

"Each player will have the same break and perfect preparation for the tournament."

Belgium begin their Euro 2020 campaign on June 12 against Russia in St Petersburg.
 

Belgium squad in full:

Goalkeepers: Thibaut Courtois, Simon Mignolet, Matz Sels.

Defenders: Toby Alderweireld, Dedryck Boyata, Jason Denayer, Thomas Vermaelen, Jan Vertonghen.

Wing-backs: Yannick Carrasco, Timothy Castagne, Nacer Chadli, Thorgan Hazard, Thomas Meunier.

Midfielders: Kevin De Bruyne, Leander Dendoncker, Dennis Praet, Youri Tielemans, Hans Vanaken, Axel Witsel.

Forwards: Jeremy Doku, Eden Hazard, Dries Mertens, Leandro Trossard.

Strikers: Michy Batshuayi, Christian Benteke, Romelu Lukaku.

Zinedine Zidane insisted the only focus for Real Madrid should be their pivotal LaLiga finale against Villarreal, rather than his future at the club.

Los Blancos remain in the hunt to retain their league title thanks to a 1-0 win away at Athletic Bilbao on Sunday, defender Nacho Fernandez the unlikely hero with the only goal of the game.

It appeared at one stage as if the reigning champions would be in pole position with one more round of fixtures to play, only for Atletico Madrid to produce an impressive comeback at home against Osasuna.

A late Luis Suarez winner at the Wanda Metropolitano has Diego Simeone's side two points ahead of their city rivals in the table.

Reports in the Spanish media on the day of the Athletic game said Zidane had informed the Madrid squad he will be leaving at the end of the campaign, but the Frenchman refused to be drawn on his situation.

"How am I going to tell my players that I am leaving now, when we are putting everything on the line?" Zidane said in his post-match press conference.

"When you say things from the outside, you can say whatever you want. I am not ever going to say that to my players.

"At the end of the season we will see, but now I am in this and am focused on the last match.

"We cannot talk constantly about my future; the most important thing is the last match that we have to play."

Zidane opted to retain the same forward line that started the 4-1 win over Granada on Thursday, meaning Eden Hazard once again had to settle for a place on the bench.

The Belgium international was introduced in the 77th minute in place of Rodrygo, with Zidane insisting it was simply a selection call made by himself, rather than any particular issue.

"Nothing has happened with Hazard, it is just that others are playing at the moment," he said.

"I have to choose the 11 and nothing more. He is contributing like everyone else.”

While Madrid host Villarreal in the Spanish capital next Sunday, Atletico have a trip to relegation-threatened Real Valladolid.

Zidane's side are on a 17-game unbeaten run in LaLiga, their best streak in a single campaign during his two stints in charge.

Zinedine Zidane appeared to commit to Real Madrid with his latest cryptic comments around his future ahead of a huge LaLiga clash with Sevilla.

Zidane is in his second stint as Madrid coach and attempting to defend their domestic title.

But speculation is never far away at the Santiago Bernabeu, and Zidane did not shy away from links to former club Juventus earlier in the season.

The Frenchman was asked again about his plans on Saturday, though, and replied: "I'm going to make it very easy for the club, because they have given me everything.

"But the theme is Sevilla, that's all. Sevilla and what's left of LaLiga."

Second-placed Madrid are facing fourth-placed Sevilla on Sunday after leaders Atletico Madrid take on Barcelona, the remaining top-four team, the previous day.

Zidane's side, two points back, could end the weekend top with just three games remaining and will back themselves against Sevilla.

Madrid have won the past four LaLiga meetings between the sides and are unbeaten in 11 at home to Sevilla, scoring 3.4 goals per game on average. It is their longest ever stretch of consecutive home league victories against the Andalusian outfit.

But Los Blancos must move on from a disappointing result in midweek when they exited the Champions League to Chelsea.

"We know what we're playing. That's four finals," Zidane said. "We have to forget about the Champions League now and focus on what we have left."

Madrid will again have to contend without captain Sergio Ramos, who has suffered a hamstring injury – his third setback of the season.

But Ramos had already missed three of Madrid's previous games against top-four opposition this term and they are unbeaten in all five such matches, winning four.

Zidane said of his team's injury crisis: "It's a concern, because there are so many. Our case is that of the team that has had the most. I'm worried, of course.

"It's a particular year, players never rest, coronavirus, the calendar... That's all there is.

"I hope that by next year they will change and be more normal, with a normal pre-season."

Zidane will be able to call on Eden Hazard, though, after the winger apologised having been pictured joking with his former Chelsea team-mates following this week's defeat.

Hazard has just three goals in 27 LaLiga appearances over the past two seasons and none since January. He has created only 26 chances for four assists and much more is expected from the €100million signing.

"Eden has apologised and done well. He didn't mean to hurt anyone, which is the most important thing," Zidane said. "There's no more, he's apologised, we've talked and nothing more to say.

"He's going to help us. So far you haven't seen the player inside him. I hope we can see that Hazard soon. He has a contract with Madrid."

Neymar's long-term commitment to Paris Saint-Germain has been in question at times. 

A return to Barcelona had been rumoured. 

Now the Brazil international is set to stay in the French capital.

 

TOP STORY – NEYMAR TO FINALISE PSG EXTENSION

Neymar is set to sign a new contract with Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain this weekend, L'Equipe reports.

The four-year extension will be worth €30million (£26m) per season and run through 2026, nearly a decade after he arrived from Camp Nou for a record €220m fee. 

The signing would come days after a report that Barcelona approached PSG about Neymar, but the French club insisted he was not for sale. 

ROUND-UP

- Chelsea are casting a wide net to bolster their attack, with Bild reporting Mohamed Salah is on Thomas Tuchel's shortlist along with Erling Haaland and Romelu Lukaku

- Zinedine Zidane may return to Juventus as head coach after Real Madrid's Champions League exit, Tuttosport reports, adding that the Real Madrid boss also is considering taking some time away from the sport. 

Georginio Wijnaldum's Liverpool deal expires in June and the midfielder could be on the way to Bayern Munich, Sport1 reports. 

- Memphis Depay remains a top target for Barcelona, but the Spanish giants could turn to Donyell Malen of PSV if they cannot land the Lyon star. 

- Marca claims Eden Hazard is on the way out at Real Madrid, with Los Blancos ready to listen to offers for the forward. 

- Jan Oblak could be moving to the Premier League this summer, with ESPN saying Manchester United are among the potential destinations for the Atletico Madrid goalkeeper. 

- Celtic striker Odsonne Edouard will sign for Leicester City, Teamtalk reported. The 23-year-old also has drawn inquiries from West Ham and Liverpool

- Aston Villa will offer £15million for Burnley's Dwight McNeil, Football Insider reported. McNeil is under contract through 2024. 

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.

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."

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.

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."

Eden Hazard is happy to keep progressing "step by step" after playing 24 minutes for Real Madrid against his Chelsea "friends" in the Champions League.

Hazard started from the bench for Madrid in Tuesday's home first leg of their semi-final tie, which ended 1-1.

The winger had only returned from more than a month out against Real Betis at the weekend, finally putting his latest injury setback behind him.

A series of issues have meant the meeting with former club Chelsea saw Hazard make just his 38th Madrid appearance since signing in 2019.

Like much of his career in Spain, it was a largely forgettable cameo, having only 12 touches and failing to attempt or create a shot.

But Hazard was simply happy to be back involved, explaining: "I just want to go step by step.

"Of course I want to play, I want to be on the pitch, but the last game I played 15 minutes, today I played a bit more.

"We have a couple of big games to play until the end of the season, so I just want to be ready for them.

"Now I feel better, the condition's better and the body's better, so I'm just happy that I can play again."

Hazard has so far been involved in only nine Madrid goals, yet he scored 110 times and provided 81 assists in seven years with Chelsea to earn his move.

"It's always good to play against friends," he added. "I have a couple of friends over there.

"But now I'm a Real Madrid player, so I just want to win. It doesn't matter if it's Chelsea against us or another team, I just want to win.

"But it's always good to see some good faces."

Hazard will hope to be able to use his experience of Stamford Bridge to Madrid's advantage in next week's return leg.

Madrid have not beaten Chelsea in four meetings but may now require a victory to advance after conceding an away goal to Christian Pulisic.

Karim Benzema replied for Los Blancos long before Hazard's introduction with his team's sole shot on target.

Christian Pulisic says Chelsea are "moving on" without former talisman Eden Hazard and insists he is "not trying to be like" the Real Madrid winger ahead of their Champions League semi-final clash.

Hazard left Stamford Bridge at the end of the 2018-19 season as Pulisic arrived, having agreed a move from Borussia Dortmund in January 2019.

Madrid paid a club-record €100million fee to sign Hazard, who won six major honours in seven years with Chelsea, including the Premier League twice and the Europa League twice.

The Belgium international scored 110 goals and provided 81 assists in all competitions for the Premier League side but has struggled to make the same impact in Spain, dogged by injury woes.

Hazard has just four goals and five assists in 37 games in Madrid colours, although he has been involved in a goal every 165 minutes this season, a vast improvement on one every 309 minutes in 2019-20.

Chelsea have not been serious title contenders in either season since Hazard's departure but will now hope to dump their fit-again former superstar out of the Champions League.

Pulisic, wearing Hazard's number 10 shirt and playing a similar role, has predictably been measured against the 30-year-old.

A strong end to 2019-20 saw Pulisic finish with nine Premier League goals, scoring 0.47 times per 90 minutes, comparable to Hazard's rate of 0.49 when he netted 16 times in his final campaign in England.

Pulisic has found life a little more difficult this season, providing four goals (0.26 per 90), but he is determined to forge his own legacy.

"[Hazard] was an incredible player at this football club, of course," Pulisic told reporters. "It's someone that I've definitely looked up to.

"I'm not comparing myself to him in any way or trying to be like him, I'm my own player and I'm doing my best for this club.

"Obviously I can say he was a massive player for this club so it's an honour to hear comparisons like that, but I still have a ways to go.

"He was an incredible player - he did a lot for this football club - and obviously we're moving on without him.

"I never played with him, so I only know how it is without him, but I think we're in a good place now, in the semi-final of the Champions League with a lot left to play for this season.

"I think this team definitely has a good situation at the moment. It's looking positive."

Like Hazard, Pulisic has had fitness issues, limiting his involvement.

"I feel very confident in my body and my fitness level at the moment," he said. "I've played a string of games. I've never thought of myself as a player who's injury-prone or anything.

"Obviously I've had a tough time the past year and a bit, but really it's about taking care of my body and putting myself in the best position to be available for every single game. I feel good about that."

One such problem - a hamstring blow in last season's FA Cup final - kept Pulisic out of the second leg of a 7-1 aggregate Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich.

Chelsea are hoping this year's campaign ends in more satisfactory fashion.

"I think the guys definitely gained from that, taking that experience from last season, being able to play in the Champions League - a lot of the guys for the first time," Pulisic said.

"The next season you feel more prepared, a bit more confident, and ready to go for this year's competition.

"I think that experience does help and I'm hoping we can take it into the game tomorrow."

Zinedine Zidane portrayed a relaxed figure despite Real Madrid suffering something of a setback in their title challenge as they were held to a 0-0 draw by Real Betis.

Madrid were looking to go top of the table – at least until Sunday – with a victory at Valdebebas, but in the end they were arguably fortunate to leave with a point.

Betis had the best chances of the match, with Guido Rodriguez and Borja Iglesias spurning glorious opportunities in the second half.

While Madrid managed five shots on target, their cumulative expected goals value of 1.02 was only marginally more than Betis' 0.92.

It was an underwhelming showing ahead of their Champions League semi-final first leg against Chelsea on Tuesday, while they will finish the weekend five points off the top of LaLiga if Atletico beat Athletic Bilbao.

But Zidane stressed there was no need to panic, even if he was irritated by Madrid's issues in attack during Saturday's stalemate.

"We lose two points and we don't like it but there is still a lot of LaLiga to go, it doesn't end today," he said.

"The rest of the teams have to play and we'll see what happens. We now focus on Tuesday's game.

"Defensively we were very good, but offensively we lacked many things. We lacked something, we were not fine at the top end of the pitch.

"We are prepared for the next game, which is going to be the most difficult of the whole season."

One positive for Madrid was the return of Eden Hazard, who made only his second LaLiga appearance since the end of January.

The Belgium winger had been blighted by calf and thigh issues but looked lively in his cameo, suggesting he could play a role against his former club over the next couple of weeks.

"I was very happy to see Eden Hazard because it was important to have him with us again," Zidane said.

"We know the quality he has and I hope to be able to count on him until the end of the season."

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