The 22-year-old, who signed for £107million from Benfica, will need to be on top of his game to give the Blues a foothold in midfield against Real’s ageing masters Luka Modric and Toni Kroos.
The Argentine World Cup winner has started every match since joining Chelsea and will do so again at the Bernabeu, flanked by the returning N’Golo Kante. He has, however, been part of a poor run that has seen Chelsea win just three of their 12 games since arriving in January.
Caretaker manager Lampard says it is unfair to characterise his young players as lacking leadership and says Fernandez, who is emerging as a dressing-room force, can make his mark on a defining night.
“Chelsea brought in some younger players throughout this season, we had to give them a chance at developing into the leaders we want them to be,” he said. “Enzo is becoming a leader, but he’s 22, I think it’s quite difficult for us to talk about that, he’ll have to find his way. Games like tonight are a great chance to perform and show the personality that makes you a proper leader.
“It’s normal in a season when a club like us falls below the levels we want the character gets questioned. It’s one of the first things probably to get questioned in times of defeat. The only thing the players can do is prove it on the pitch, where people can see it.”
Fernandez, who stepped up yesterday to speak alongside his boss for the biggest match of the season, told how Lampard had inspired the squad with a talk about winning the 2012 Champions League during a difficult season.
He heard about Lampard’s team of proven leaders, including John Terry, Didier Drogba and Petr Cech, winning in Munich under unlikely circumstances for interim manager Roberto Di Matteo. He admitted he was flattered to hear Lampard talk him up as a leader, saying: “I always dream to be a leader because when I started, I always wanted to be an example. To be defined like that so young makes me really proud. I always give my best and try to be an example for everyone.”
The midfielder admitted that Carlo Ancelotti’s 14-time winners pose a huge challenge, but insists Chelsea will step up to the challenge. “We are not afraid,” he said. “Of course, there is respect, because we know the quality they have and the forwards they have. But we will try to counteract them with our defenders and try to make a wonderful match.”
Chelsea are 11th in the Premier League and bowed out of both domestic cup competitions in the first round they played in. The club’s owners hope Lampard can save their season in his second spell in charge.
After Lampard was sacked in 2021, Thomas Tuchel won the Champions League, beating Madrid over two legs en route to the final. It’s a quirk of Chelsea’s history that mid-season appointments have been able to win in Europe.
Kepa Arrizabalaga is dreaming about winning it again and believes his side can spring a surprise.
“We are among the last eight, so it’s obvious that we are dreaming of winning it,” the goalkeeper said. “We have won everything in Europe during these four and a half years. It’s so satisfying. In the end, it’s about the medal, lifting the trophy and celebrating, but it’s also about the journey you take to get there.”