We began this season’s Champions League group stage adventure at home against Sevilla, and while we didn’t win, that scoreless draw turns out to have set us up for a smooth journey nonetheless. In fact, both Chelsea and Sevilla have collected the maximum nine points since, which means that both of us have already qualified for the knockout rounds with two games to spare. The only question that remains is which one of us will advance as the top seed.
Generally, being a top seed is better than not being a top seed, but head coach Frank Lampard has made it pretty clear that his topmost priority is to keep his squad healthy and fit, and also somewhat happy. With the whole squad fully healthy, finding minutes for everyone will be a challenge. Coaches will say that’s a good problem to have, but managing said problem isn’t always easy — we only have to ask Frank “he picks me, not like the other fella” Lampard.
Of course, we also want to win. There should be enough quality in the squad, at least in theory, to do so without constantly playing the same eleven.
Date / Time: Wednesday, December 2, 2020, 20.00 GMT; 3pm EST; 1:30am IST (next day)
Venue: Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán, Seville, Spain
Referee: Artur Soares Dias (on pitch); Tiago Martins (VAR) — first Chelsea game for the Portuguese referee(s)
Forecast: Relatively cool, but still way nicer than England
On TV: BT Sport 3 (UK); none (USA); Sony Six (India); SuperSport Variety, Canal+ Sport 4 (NGA); elsewhere
Streaming: BT Sport Live (UK); CBS All Access, TUDNxtra (USA); Sony LIV (India); DStv Now (NGA) — if you’re in the US and you don’t want to subscribe to CBS because you’re not over 60 and/or don’t like Star Trek, you can also watch through Fubo TV, for which we have an affiliate link. CBS does offer a free trial for All Access, and they will be carrying the Champions League for the next several years, so you might as well get used to their lack of actual television coverage. Grin and bear it.
Sevilla team news: After a bit of a wobble around the time of our first game, Sevilla have righted the ship and have rattled off five wins in a row and six in seven in all competitions. With a squad as talented as they are, it was only a matter of time before the defending Europa League champions would do so. They have climbed back into the top five of La Liga, and with a game or two in-hand over most of those still above them.
Unlike Chelsea however, Sevilla are dealing with a few issues in their squad. The participation of outstanding goalkeeper Yassine “Bono” Bounou and seldom used forward Carlos Fernández depend first and foremost on them returning a negative COVID-19 test — and then on their fitness levels given that they’ve been self-isolating for the past couple weeks. Luuk de Jong and Lucas Ocampos also may or may not be available apparently, while Suso, Marcos Acuña, and Sergio Escudero are all definitely out with various injuries.
As with Chelsea, Sevilla have a deep enough and good enough squad to pose a challenge and have a realistic chance of winning regardless of what eleven head coach Julen Lopetegui puts out.
Chelsea team news: The winning streak may have come to a crashing halt thanks to Mourinho’s parked bus on Sunday, but Chelsea are still unbeaten (outside of a penalty shootout) for over two months. And now we have everybody injury-free and available, with young Billy Gilmour rejoining the squad and traveling in hopes of a substitute appearance.
Lampard has found a fairly solid starting XI during this unbeaten run, but we have to be able to utilize the squad as well — and without a massive drop in levels. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the head coach rotate as many as all eleven players (even Mendy!), even if there’s still technically something tangible to play for in this game.
Previously: The 0-0 against Sevilla was the beginning of a significant improvement in the team’s defensive shape, setup, commitment, and proficiency. We’ve kept a clean in six of the eight matches since, conceding just twice. If nothing else, let’s keep that going at least.