Defending champions Chelsea will take the field for their Champions League Round of 16 match against French champions LOSC Lille on a high after a last-gasp win against Crystal Palace in the Premier League this weekend that has helped them recover from a recent dip in form.
Chelsea qualified as second behind Juventus in Group H, the former English champions have drawn an opponent as the Lille are hoping to make the most of reaching the knockout stage for the second time.
However, Chelsea will be going into the match with some injury concerns. Thomas Tuchel has spoken about Cesar Azpilicueta and Callum Hudson-Odoi’s injuries ahead of Tuesday night’s meeting with Lille, a game the boss says his team must set the right expectation levels for.
In the wake of their last-gasp win at Crystal Palace, Tuchel acknowledged there is more, plenty more to come from his players as the Blues approach the business end of the season.
Focus now turns to Champions League football and their last-16 meeting with the French champions, the first leg of which will be played at Stamford Bridge. Tuchel has underlined what the Blues must do before that game.
“We should not think too much of how others could see us as the favourites against Lille. We have to accept at the moment it’s a phase where things feel a bit tight and more difficult than other times. This is the situation for the match on Tuesday,” Tuchel said on Monday.
“It’s important to be realistic and not over-expect from us, and accept games against midtable teams can become difficult. Once we accept that, it’s the first step to feel a certain freedom and become better.
“We are confident of having a good performance because we deliver on a high level in knockout matches, cup matches, Champions League matches. We have the fans behind us. We go step by step, and we will be ready to fight with them on an okay level,” he said.
On their part, Lille could scarcely have been handed a tougher assignment in only their second appearance in the round of 16.
Holders Chelsea may have suffered a recent dip in the Premier League, but their European juggernaut has shown little sign of slowing. Their Ligue 1 opponents are in unfamiliar if previously charted territory, having been condemned to a 2-0 aggregate defeat by Manchester United in 2006/07.
To have any chance of springing a surprise, Lille will surely need to do what has eluded so many — find a way past Edouard Mendy. The Chelsea keeper has kept four clean sheets in five UEFA Champions League games this season and 13 in 17 overall.