Tonight’s Champions League fixture will ensure Lille become the fifth French side to play a competitive match against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and only one of those previous visitors has left west London with a win.
Between them, those four other teams from France have played eight matches at the Bridge, all of them in the Champions League. We have a solid record against clubs from across the Channel too, with four wins, three draws and just the one loss on home soil. So who are Lille’s Gallic predecessors and what happened when we met?
It wasn’t until relatively recently, in March 2000, that we first played competitively against a team from France at the Bridge, when Marseille came to town in the Champions League’s short-lived second group stage. That was also our first-ever campaign in Europe’s top club competition and we continued our impressive debut under Gianluca Vialli with a 1-0 win over the visiting Frenchmen, courtesy of Dennis Wise’s first-half strike. Marseille returned 10 years later, when a different Italian Chelsea boss was celebrating victory. However, it was our French players who did much of the damage for Carlo Ancelotti’s side, as Gael Kakuta’s corner set up John Terry for the opener before Nicolas Anelka sealed a 2-0 victory from the penalty spot.
The second visit by a French side was possibly the most painful for Chelsea fans, despite earning a draw at the Bridge. Coming in the second leg of the 2003/04 Champions League semi-final, we knew we needed to win after a loss in the opening match on the Cote d’Azur. Things looked promising when first-half goals from Jesper Gronkjaer and Frank Lampard gave us the two-goal advantage we needed to reach a first-ever final on the away goals rule, but we couldn’t prevent a Monaco fightback making it 2-2 and sealing our exit.
Matters went a lot smoother when we hosted Bordeaux in the first match of the group stage in 2008/09. Anelka again scored against his countrymen, but by then the match was long finished as a contest. Lampard opened the scoring with a close-range header inside the first 15 minutes and then Joe Cole added a header of his own. Florent Malouda smashed in a powerful third before Anelka put the icing on the cake of a 4-0 thrashing in stoppage time, with Petr Cech going the whole game in the Chelsea goal without having to make a serious save.
Given the changes that have taken place at both Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain over the last couple of decades, it is unsurprising that meetings between the two have produced varying results. Our four matches against them make the Parisians our most frequent French opponents, with the first coming in the 2004/05 group stage, when we were on our way to claiming our first top-flight title for 50 years, but the visitors were still very much outsiders on their domestic scene. We had to settle for a 0-0 stalemate, though, which was a little surprising given we had won all four of our previous matches in the competition that season, including a 3-0 victory in Paris.
By the time of their next visit, in the 2013/14 quarter-finals, PSG had started their current run as effectively undisputed French champions. However, we had clearly been saving up all the drama from that previous match, as we offered a reminder of why we had been crowned European champions two years earlier. After Andre Schurrle’s opener, Demba Ba wiped out PSG’s first-leg lead, and the smiles off Parisian faces, when he scrambled home in the 87th minute to put us into the semis on away goals.
However, since then Paris Saint-Germain have proven to be a bit of a thorn in our side. First they got revenge a year later when a 2-2 draw at the Bridge meant it was PSG who went through on away goals after extra time, despite Diego Costa and Eden Hazard’s goals. The French side then doubled down with a 2-1 win at the Bridge on their last visit in March 2016, so let’s hope normal service is resumed when Lille come to west London tonight.