Chelsea’s Champions League fate has come down to the very last group game. This is a far cry from the mostly straightforward and dominant campaigns of the past 10-15 years, though it should be pointed out that in 2011-12, we needed a final-match victory to advance as well. Once you’re in the playoffs/knockout rounds, anything can happen. We just have to get there.
A win would guarantee advancement, regardless of what happens in the other game. If Ajax and Valencia draw, we would even finish as group winners as we own the tiebreaker against Ajax. Otherwise, the winner of that game wins the group, the loser finish third (and drop into the Europa League knockout rounds) while Chelsea finish second and advance to the Champions League knockout rounds.
A draw only guarantees third place for Chelsea. We would then need Ajax to beat Valencia. We would finish third with a Valencia win or draw in Amsterdam, and would be Europa League-bound.
A loss tomorrow guarantees a third-place finish for the Blues — Valencia already own the tiebreaker against us — and Europa League football for the rest of the season. Let’s not do that.
Date / Time: Tuesday, December 10, 2019, 20.00 GMT; 3pm EST; 1:30am IST (next day)
Venue: Stamford Bridge, SW6
Referee: Anastasios Sidiropoulos — the 40-year-old Greek referee was in charge of our 6-0 win over Qarabag in 2017 in his one and only Chelsea match thus far.
Forecast: Heavy rain
On TV: BT Sport 2 (UK); none (USA), Sony TEN 1 (India); Canal+ Sport 3, SuperSport 5 (NGA); elsewhere
Streaming: BT Sport Live (UK); B/R Live, TUDNxtra (USA); Sony LIV (India); DStv Now (NGA)
Chelsea team news: If we follow the pattern of Chelsea’s stuttering cadence over the past couple months — last 10 games read: W-L-W-D-W-L-D-L-W-L — we’re probably due for a win, though it’s been a struggle since the November international break, with Chelsea winning just once in our last five tries.
Helpful in those aims could be the long-awaited return of center back Antonio Rudiger, though the player he probably should be partnering, Fikayo Tomori, will miss out due to a hip injury. Veteran backup striker Olivier Giroud is out as well, while Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s long-term recovery is still ongoing and looks to be for some time yet.
Chelsea have played twice in the last seven days and used pretty much the same players, including the same starting XI in both games. Lampard remains confident that the youthful legs, the unbridled confidence, and the magnitude of the occasion will carry us through. Let’s hope he’s right.
Lille team news: Since we last saw Lille in early October, their season took a massive dip — they’d go on to lose 5 of their next 9 games in all competitions, winning just once. Unfortunately they look to be climbing out of that hole, and have notched three 1-0 wins on the bounce, including away at Lyon. That puts them back into the top three in Ligue 1, a competition where everyone other than PSG are just playing for second place.
The man who scored against Chelsea in the first match, Victor Osimhen, has also slowed down (2 in 7), but just like the team, has found his shooting boots once again. In fact, in those three 1-0 wins on the bounce, he scored 2 of the 3 goals and collected the assist on the third. That gives him 11 goals in all competitions for the season, just one behind Tammy Abraham’s pace.
As their recent results would indicate, Lille have build their recent success on solid defending and efficient attacking, which is basically the opposite of Chelsea’s approach.
All that said, they have nothing but pride to play for, which could make them either very easy or very difficult to play against. As on the weekend, the first goal will be very important. Chelsea will need to start better than we’ve become accustomed to this season.
Previously: Abraham and Osimhen both scored before Willian made a telling contribution late on.