Despite some sensationalist reporting (and that’s saying something these days) that Chelsea would not be allowed to play this game due to the EU now also levying sanctions on Roman Abramovich, this second leg of our Round of 16 matchup is very much set to go ahead, as confirmed with UEFA by RMC Sport.
Should Chelsea progress, our prize money might be withheld or put into a frozen account until the ownership situation is settled, but beyond that, the biggest question remains a thankfully sporting one: can we finish the job, up 2-0 from the first leg, and reach the quarterfinals for the second year running?
(Incidentally, we’ve made it to the quarterfinals just three times in the last 10 years, but won it all on two of those occasions. And only a shocking home performance in the 2013-14 semifinals to Atlético Madrid prevented us from going three-for-three.)
Date / Time: Wednesday, March 16, 2022, 20.00 GMT; 4pm EDT; 1:30am IST (next day)
Venue: Stade Pierre-Mauroy, Lille, France
Referee: Davide Massa (on pitch); Massimiliano Irrati (VAR)
Forecast: Breezy, mild, chance of rain
On TV: BT Sport 2 (UK); Galavision (USA); Sony TEN 2 (India); SuperSport Football Plus (NGA); elsewhere
Streaming: BT Sport Live (UK); Paramount+, TUDNxtra (USA); Sony LIV (India); DStv Now (NGA)
Lille team news: Lille have played just three games since we last saw them (we’ve played five), winning two while conceding a grand total of zero goals. This solid run has seen them climb up into seventh place in Ligue 1, just four points out of the last European spot with 10 games to go.
One big change from the first leg will be the absence of Renato Sanches, who was more than a handful last time out. He sustained an adductor injury over the weekend, and could be out for a while in what’s already been a(nother) rather stop-start injury-hit season for him.
Lille have nothing to lose and everything to gain, and it’s not like they were pushovers in the first leg, just a bit less clinical.
Chelsea team news: There are waves crashing in on all sides, but our on-pitch results continue to range from good to excellent, save for the one pesky and lengthy penalty kick shootout in the League Cup final. It’s now 4 wins on the bounce and 10 of 11 won in all competitions, with just 5 conceded, 4 of which were scored by Championship or Championship-bound sides.
It’s truly a testament to the team’s focus, when it could be just as easy to worry about and get distracted by everything else we cannot control. Achieving such singular focus can sometimes be easier when (it seems like) the whole footballing and political world is against you (right, José?), but for the most part, we’ve approached the “us” side of the us versus them equation not with righteous indignation and mind-gamey sideshows but rather with humble acceptance and clear-eyed discourse — except for whatever it was from the club with the whole Middlesbrough closed doors request. Still, credit to the organization and especially Thomas Tuchel for navigating steadily through these stormy seas. Tinker, Tailor, Sailor.
All that said, the future still seems quite precarious and highly uncertain, both short- and long-term, but like the man says, we just have to take care of our own responsibilities. There can be no excuses. Play like champions.
Previously: The first leg was just three weeks ago, but it feels literally like a lifetime. Big Game Kai Havertz and NY Jets fan Christian Pulisic scored the goals.