Captain César Azpilicueta has summed it up best. As the only member of the 2012 squad still on the team (well, not counting Petr Čech, now the technical
director advisor), he has a rare opportunity to make up for what was once lost.
“Losing that one in 2012, it hurt a lot and to win it for the first time for the club would be huge. [When] you have a chance like we have in this tournament this week, we have to make the most of it and hopefully take it.”
-César Azpilicueta; source: Chelsea FC
But of course, Chelsea first have to get to the final. While we certainly can’t lose the final again if we don’t make it that far, we also can’t win it. So let’s not be the first UEFA Champions League representative at this thing (since 2005) to fail to make the final, shall we?
Date / Time: Wednesday, February 9, 2022, 16.30 GMT; 11:30am EST; 10pm IST
Venue: Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi, UAE
Referee: César Ramos (on pitch); Mauro Vigliano (VAR) — will also be testing “limb-tracking technology”
On TV: E4 (UK); Fox Sports 2, Fox Deportes (USA); elsewhere
Streaming: All 4 (UK); Fox Sports Go (USA) — not sure about India or Nigeria listings or streaming options, but FIFA’s YouTube channel might be streaming it.
Al Hilal team news: By far the most successful professional team in Saudi Arabia, the four-time AFC Champions League-winners easily beat local side Al Jazira, 6-1 on Sunday to advance to the semifinal. Familiar names Odion Ighalo (formerly of Watford and Manchester United), £20m-man Matheus Pereira (formerly of West Brom), and Moussa Marega (formerly of FC Porto) were all on the scoresheet. Former Swansea (and Lyon) striker Bafétimbi Gomis probably would’ve scored, too, but he left the team in the winter transfer window to join Galatasaray.
The point is, they are not a collection of no-names, and are also led by the familiar figure of Leonardo Jardim, who made AS Monaco everyone’s favorite second team back in 2016-17 with their fun and attacking football (and which also inspired us to spend €40m on Tiémoué Bakayoko — oopsies!). That said, he’s not found that same level of success with Al Hilal just yet, and they sit a surprising fourth in the Saudi Professional League, 13 points off the pace set by main rivals Al Ittihad (with a game in-hand) — though with only two losses on the season (like Chelsea, they’ve had a few too many draws).
Chelsea team news: Ben Chilwell, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, and Édouard Mendy did not travel with the team. Mendy’s expected to show up at some point, but not yet, once he’s done celebrating Senegal’s historic Africa Cup of Nations triumph. Reece James did travel but won’t be ready to play. Mason Mount is a gametime decision. Everyone else is ready to go, including Thomas Tuchel back home in front of his television. He will be hoping to get out of isolation and rejoin the team for the weekend.
Nine years ago, Chelsea made easy work of CF Monterrey in the semifinal, with Juan Mata and Fernando Torres scoring in addition to an own goal from the Mexican side. David Luiz played midfield for the first time ever for us, and we saw the “MaZaCar” together as well (i.e. Mata, Hazard, Oscar), which was always fun. Of course, nothing’s more fun than winning, so let’s do that first.
Previously: Are we having fun yet?