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Mateo Kovačić, Denis Zakaria, Wesley Fofana available as Graham Potter takes on latest exciting new challenge

Champions League knockout rounds loading

Chelsea Training Session and Press Conference Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

Graham Potter’s next step towards becoming the greatest manager of all time is to take charge of his first ever Champions League knockout round game. And he’ll get to do it against a team we’ve never played before, and in front of 80,000 rowdy fans and The Yellow Wall. Certainly, as far as football “experiences” go in the professional game, there aren’t too many that would rank above that.

Needless to say, he’s excited.

“Absolutely, it would be strange if I wasn’t. As you say, this is the knockout stage of the Champions League, the pinnacle of the game. We’re playing against a fantastic club and team in front of 80,000 supporters here. It will be a wonderful occasion and I think we’re all looking forward to the match. We understand the challenge that awaits us but we’re really excited for it.”

Potter might say it would be strange if he weren’t excited, though perhaps he could forgive us for thinking that his emotion chip is permanently broken given his usual demeanor on the touchline and his general conduct in pre- and post-match press conferences. He’s the cool, calm, unflappable center of this mad-mad-mad football universe, after all. The Alex Honnold of football managers, but with all the safety ropes, too.

“I am careful not to get into discussion through the media. Of course, I get angry, I’m a human being like you, it’s just I choose to conduct myself in the way I think is the right way to conduct myself on the sideline. I think the same media are talking about me being angrier but then running stories about problems with referees at grassroots level. They don’t see the connection. That’s not to say we don’t all lose our temper; we do because it’s an emotional thing.

“I have a responsibility to myself, to Chelsea, to the game, and to act in a way that is the right thing for me. If you think that you can start a coaching career in the ninth tier of English football — the Northern Counties Division One — and get to this point, Chelsea and the Champions League, without sometimes getting angry or being nice, then I would suggest you don’t know anything about anything.”

The last time Potter got a bit testy with the media, he got a whole bunch of love for it. Let’s see if his noble intentions work out as well this time around, or if the media forces of darkness will start gathering around him despite the constant briefings from Chelsea about how his job is obviously in zero danger.

Anyway, let’s focus on the game at hand, for which we might have Mateo Kovačić, Denis Zakaria, and Wesley Fofana available, which would be good since we will be without the ineligible Benoît Badiashile, Noni Madueke, and David Datro Fofana, not to mention the still injured group, including Raheem Sterling.

“[Wesley, Mateo and Denis] are in the squad, so that is good. As I said before the previous game, they are getting closer to minutes but the challenge for us is to build them up so they are right from a game time perspective. [...] The other players still coming back from injured, Raheem, N’Golo Kanté and Christian Pulisic will be working their way back at Cobham.”

-Graham Potter; source: Football.London

Dortmund are in great form; we’re not. But sometimes, the stars align just right.

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