Date: Wednesday 16th March 2022
Venue: Stade Pierre-Mauroy
Kick-off: 20:00 GMT
If we thought things were getting heated before our game against Newcastle at the weekend, our late win appears to have added a little more fuel to the fire. It was as tough a game as most of us expected, and they’ve improved a bit since we battered them in October. They’ve spent a few million, got a new manager and he’s putting together a frustrating side. Ironically, they were the frustrated side courtesy of a ref who wouldn’t recognise a penalty if it ripped the shirt off his back and they have yet to find a Rolls Royce player like Kai Havertz to finish a game. Clearly, nobody outside of Chelsea appreciates him as much as us, MOTD certainly don’t but the less said about them the better.
Anyway, after what now appears to be the usual pre-Chelsea match speculation: Are we allowed to fly? Has anyone got train fare? Is it actually allowed to go ahead? etc., it’s onto tonight’s game. Lille, have improved, with that defeat to us last month being their only loss in their previous six outings. In particular, they’ve been hard to break down in Ligue 1, picking up their fifth straight clean sheet against Saint-Etienne, in a 0-0 draw, so we may find them a different prospect in the second-leg.
We made a good start in the first leg at Stamford Bridge and go into tonight’s game with a 2-goal lead, but we’d be pretty naïve if we believed our place in the quarterfinal was certain. Our form had started to improve but a likely combination of Reece James being injured again and the overwhelming negativity surrounding the club saw a more subdued performance at the weekend. Of course, that’s not surprising, because despite the media’s representation to the contrary, our players are human.
The last week has been a constant turning up of the heat from the government, pundits, journalists, and anyone else who fancies a pop at us. Yesterday’s club statement only served to fan the flames, completely oblivious to the fact that if you poke the fire, it spits, oh no hang on, that’s just Jamie Carragher.
We might be the current holders but before last year’s campaign, we had four successive last-16 exits and those stoking the fire right now would love to see us crash and burn. Our players will be feeling that again tonight. I just hope we p*ss on a few fireworks again.
Going into today’s game, Lille manager Jocelyn Gourvennec, says “I must be the only one who believes it can be done. They’re giving us a less than 10% chance of qualifying. In this situation, LOSC always turn up. We built our European campaign by playing at 300%. It’s what has happened. The Champions League is extraordinary. In its history, completely unforeseeable things have happened. It’s a competition of legend, emotion, tragedies including unforeseeable comebacks. That should give us force. We want the carry the stadium with us to, forgive the expression, dream bigger.”
Thomas Tuchel, meanwhile, says “We couldn’t have two more different games in terms of Norwich and Newcastle. We controlled the game in Norwich and managed to win the game well. Against Newcastle, it was a question of mentality, resilience and physicality. That makes any coach in the world, and me in particular, very happy. I am convinced the team knows what it look to be able to perform like this. What it took to produce results. This is what we are up to tomorrow. We allow ourselves to focus on what we can control.
To be honest, I think they [Lille] played well at Stamford Bridge. They were very physical, attacked high up the pitch. It was impressive. They had a good pressing game, were very brave, and had the mentality they had nothing to lose. I know the stadium well and the atmosphere the fans create. They will want to win and have nothing to lose. I know they like being in these situations and they will give everything to put the pressure on us and ask questions of us. They will play an attacking 4-4-2 that is aggressive, fluid and direct. We’ll have to be ready for that. But we are also confident in ourselves. It’s half time right now. No match is decided by a 2-0 score line. The second half is tomorrow and we’ll have to produce another top performance. I think Lille played on Friday so they’ve had a good amount of time to recover. That is why we have to be ready physically and mentally for a tough game.”
For Lille, Renato Sanches (thigh) is out but Benjamin Andre (illness) should be available to start and there are no other concerns.
For Chelsea, Ben Chilwell (knee), remains our long-term absentee, and Reece James and Callum Hudson-Odoi are doubts. Cesar Azpilicueta (illness) and Thiago Silva should be available.
LILLE (Possible line-up): Jardim; Celik, Fonte, Botman, Djalo; Bamba, Andre, Xeka, Gudmundsson; David, Yilmaz
CHELSEA (Possible line-up): Mendy; Christensen, Silva, Rudiger; Azpilicueta, Kante, Kovacic, Alonso; Ziyech, Havertz, Pulisic
CURRENT FORM (ALL)
- Lille have lost each of their three UEFA Champions League matches with Chelsea.
- Lille have not lost more often in the competition against any other side, also losing three times to Manchester United and Valencia.
- Chelsea won only one of their first eight UEFA Champions League away games against French sides
- Chelsea have won each of their last two Champions League away games against French sides (Lille 2019/20 & Rennes 2020/21) although both in the group stage.
- When winning the first leg of a UEFA Champions League knockout tie, Chelsea have gone on to progress from nine of the 11.
- Chelsea’s two defeats when winning the first leg in a knockout have come when playing the second leg away from home.
- Lille have been eliminated from each of their previous three European knockout ties when losing the first leg
Sportsmole: Lille 0-1 Chelsea (3-0 Chelsea agg)