Champions League draw: Chelsea best and worst case scenarios as PSG lie in wait

Champions League draw: Chelsea best and worst case scenarios as PSG lie in wait

Chelsea news: After a slow start to their Champions League campaign, Chelsea won their place in the knockout round with a game to spare under Graham Potter.
Today is the draw for the Champions League round of 16. And everyone associated with Chelsea Football Club will be watching to learn who the Blues will meet in the first round of Europe’s eilte championship.

Graham Potter’s players will be watching the draw at UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland, to learn who they will meet in the last 16. They cannot be drawn against another English team, nor can they meet the other qualifying team from their group.

And having won their group, they will be drawn against a side that finished second – which could lead to a more favourable draw. However, there are some strong teams that finished second in the group stages, leading to some jeopardy for the Blues.

The Blues managed to overcome a difficult start – they lost away at Dinamo Zagreb and drew at home to FC Salzburg – to qualify for the Round of 16 with a game to spare. Although progress did come at something of a cost with Wesley Fofana, Reece James, and Ben Chilwell all suffering significant injuries.

Having replaced Thomas Tuchel after matchday one, Potter has enjoyed his early experience of the Champions League. “The quality of the opponent I would say [is the biggest difference] – and the quality of the team we have. We are Chelsea so the quality of players is incredibly high.

“At Ostersunds [in the Europa League], we were the underdog in every game, so it was slightly different. But I would say it is the level of the team and opponent and individual player that is the difference in the Champions League.”

See also  Chelsea have made an offer totalling £85m for Brighton midfielder Moises Caicedo

That level will only increase in the knockout stage of the competition. There are six potential group runners-up Chelsea could face in the Round of 16 and here, we have picked out the two best-case opponents for Potter and his players and the two teams they will want to avoid.

Champions League draw: Chelsea best and worst case scenarios as PSG lie in wait

At Best

Club Brugge

Very few gave the Belgian side hope of escaping Group B when the draw was made. Yet Brugge won each of their opening three matches of the group stage – without conceding a goal – and put themselves in a strong position ahead of Atletico Madrid, Porto, and Bayer Leverkusen.

A goalless draw at the Cívitas Metropolitano against Atleti on matchday four put Brugge on the brink of qualification to the Round of 16 – and their place was secured a week later despite Carl Hoefkens’ side suffering a 4-0 defeat at home to Porto and something of a reality check.

Brugge ended the group stage with a 0-0 draw with Bayer Leverkusen. In the process, they kept their fifth clean sheet in this season’s Champions League, part of which is owed to the form goalkeeper Simon Mignolet. The 34-year-old made 30 saves across the group stage and ensured Brugge hugely outperformed their expected goals against, which per FBRef stood at 10.3 across their six matches.

That level of over-performance from a goalkeeper is simply not sustainable and Brugge’s form did falter during the second half of the group stage. While plenty can happen between now and the Round of 16, which takes place in February, a two-legged tie against the Belgium champions would certainly be favourable for Potter’s side.

Eintracht Frankfurt

Chelsea have recent history with Eintracht: the two sides faced off in the 2018/19 Europa League semi-final and only a penalty shootout victory in the second leg at Stamford Bridge saw the Blues progress to the final, where they duly overcame Arsenal without too much trouble.

See also  The 40 years old Serena Williams may be announcing her intention to retire from tennis after the US Open.

The two sides have changed significantly in the three years since and Eintracht have gained far more European experience. They won last season’s Europa League and made it out of a tricky Champions League group that also contained Tottenham Hotspur, Sporting CP, and French giants Marseille.

Oliver Glasner’s side have also made an encouraging start to their Bundesliga campaign; Die Adler sit fifth in the table after 12 matches and are only six points behind unlikely leaders Union Berlin. Eintracht would certainly not be easy opposition for Chelsea – especially at Deutsche Bank Park – but given the other potential draw options, a trip to Frankfurt is likely to appeal.

Worst-case

Paris Saint-Germain

Having overcome Juventus in Turin, it appeared as though Christophe Galtier’s side had top spot in Group H sewn up. But several hundred miles away in Isreal – and with 92 minutes on the clock – Joao Mario fired home Benfica’s sixth against Maccabi Haifa and that ensured the Portuguese giants went through as group winners on away goals.

That was unexpected, although not undeserved given Benfica’s performances across the group stage. And it’s left PSG as the biggest club for Chelsea to avoid when the Round of 16 draw takes place. As always, there are questions over the collective unity within the Ligue 1 giant’s squad and they have become masters of the painful Champions League exit in recent years.

However, the individual attacking quality possessed by PSG ensures they remain a huge threat in the competition. Kylian Mbappe ended the group stage with seven goals; Lionel Messi is playing sublime football after a season of adaptation after leaving Barcelona; Neymar is producing match-altering moments every three days.

See also  Chelsea Officials Have Had 'Face To Face Meeting' With Serie A Giants Over Potential £69M Transfer

Quite whether the trio will still be in sparkling form after the World Cup next month remains to be seen, but there are very few frontlines that strike fear into defences quite like that of PSG. So it’s perhaps best for Chelsea to come up against the Parisians later in the competition, if possible.

Inter

You see why Inter is in this area, don’t you? It’s not because they got through a difficult group with Bayern Munich and Barcelona, both of whom were pushed into the Europa League. And it’s not because Simone Inzaghi’s squad is sixth in Serie A, trailing Atalanta and Roma.

No, it’s fear of the narrative that Romelu Lukaku will significantly harm Chelsea. The Blues recruited the Belgian striker in the summer of 2021 for a club-record fee of £97.5 million, but after a burst of goals, he struggled for form and his relationship with Thomas Tuchel fell apart.

That is why, at the end of last season, when the club had been purchased by Todd Boehly and Clearlake, Lukaku campaigned for a return to Inter, and his request was fulfilled. Due to injuries, the 29-year-comeback old’s hasn’t gone as planned thus far, but it might be a totally different tale by February.

And the possibility of a fully healthy and focussed Lukaku – still owned by Chelsea but with a point to make to those at the club – playing a vital part in the Blues’ elimination from European competition is one that no supporter wants to become a reality.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *