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Chelsea 2-1 Lille, Champions League: Tactical Analysis

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Breaking down Chelsea’s crucial win to qualify for the Champions League knockout rounds

First half

Chelsea dominated the first half, breaking through Lille’s block from midfield and regularly arriving in the final third to create chances.

From the back, Chelsea would circulate the ball around their backline and deep midfielders until they found time and space on the ball to play forward — usually to the sides of Lille’s front two attempting to apply pressure on the ball. From these positions Chelsea could find early passes to Abraham running behind (Rüdiger adding his long passes into the equation as well), or Kanté’s on one of his countless runs from midfield that only he himself would be able to track defensively — fortunately for Chelsea, they have both.

It was from one of Kanté’s movements that set up the opportunity for Chelsea to take the lead — similar to the goal against Manchester City — Kovačić dropped to receive the ball facing play and found Kanté’s diagonal run from right to left.

By contrast, Lille had plenty of difficulties in possession. When they tried to play with the ball form their backline, they would suffer against Chelsea’s strength defensively (the high press), while they were unable to find an outlet for direct play from the back that could have taken advantage of a weakness in Chelsea’s defence.

From their continued possession and forays into the final third (from both direct play and combinations to on the wings), Chelsea would create chances to score and go on to extend their lead through a corner before halftime — in addition to Maignan making a number of saves in the Lille goal.

Second half

Chelsea made an aggressive and intense start to the second half, moving the ball quickly, recovering the ball high, and creating a number of chances to extend their lead — only to be denied by even more Maignan saves. (He would finish with six, three in each half, before leaving 20 minutes from time with an injury.)

Chelsea continued to dominate the game and were comfortably passing the ball through Lille’s attempts to press high. But without extending the lead any further, Rémy’s goal late in the half put Chelsea into an uncomfortable situation.

At first, Chelsea continued to push to score again to take the game away from Lille, creating chances but still no goals. Then, after a subsequent Rémy opportunity, Chelsea began to manage the game by holding on to the ball and running the clock down — rather than risk creating a similar situation to the Valencia game.

Conclusion

Chelsea controlled the game in the first half, moving the ball at the back to open up space in midfield and play forward passes to runners, or combine on the wings to create chances. Following their two goals in the first half, Chelsea continued to dominate the game comfortably during the second half and continued to create chances, but they were unable to extend their lead. Despite the door being left open for Lille to score a late equaliser following Rémy’s goal, Chelsea were able to manage the game to a deserved victory, and advance into the Champions League knockout stages.