A big night at the Bridge awaits and we set the second-leg scene here…

Moonlight and music means the romance of the Champions League, and how Chelsea would love to overturn Borussia Dortmund’s narrow advantage in this decisive leg of the Round of 16, an 8pm kick-off under the floodlights at Stamford Bridge.

The players will need the backing of supporters as much as ever if more UEFA fixtures are to be added to the calendar, and the Londoners must score in order progress to the quarter-finals following the one-goal defeat in Westphalia three weeks ago.

‘If we do things right we will win,’ predicted Joao Felix yesterday and the Blues, who have won seven of the past nine European home matches, were buoyed by a domestic win and clean sheet on Saturday that may just prove a defining moment. More to the point, nearly all of Chelsea’s significant statistics this season have been more positive in this competition than the Premier League.

The visitors have been pitch-perfect since the winter break, winning 10 in 10 across all competitions, but have actually lost nine, won three and drawn four of their last 16 UEFA knockout games. Both sides could be missing significant players.

But this is a special Champions League night. The German opposition are on a roll and the odds maybe against the Blues. When has that ever fazed the two-time champions of Europe?

Chelsea team news

It is easy to forget how well Chelsea performed in Westphalia three weeks ago, edging possession and managing more crosses (31), shots (21) and efforts on target (eight) than any side in that European midweek. Joao Felix and Mykhailo Mudryk had breakthroughs down the Black-and-Yellows’ right.

Reece James trained yesterday after sitting out Saturday with a slight strain. As impressive as the trio of Fofana, Kalidou Koulibaly and Benoit Badiashile was against Leeds, it cannot be replicated tonight as Badiashile (along with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, David Fofana and Noni Madueke) is not in the Blues’ Champions League squad.

Of course Trevoh Chalobah, who had an effective 50th appearance for the Londoners on Saturday, could slip into the centre in the injured Thiago Silva’s absence. It is too soon for N’Golo Kante’s long-awaited return but Christian Pulisic is available and Reece James should also be ready.

Inked in already may be Saturday’s goal hero Wes Fofana, who netted his first in the Premier League with an imperious header which, realistically, could have been his second from one of many splendid Ben Chilwell deliveries.

That was the Blues’ first goal for 400 minutes and the Bridge went wild – a sensation we hope to recreate this evening. The France centre-back, remember, poked home in his only previous European night at the Bridge to date, the 3-0 thrashing of Milan. For Enzo, Felix and Mudryk this will be the first taste of the Champions League atmosphere under floodlights at the Bridge.

Should Graham Potter retain Saturday’s winning formula, Raheem Sterling (injured for the trip to Dortmund), Kai Havertz and Joao Felix could start upfront. All were lively and purposeful on the break against Leeds and each could have improved the look of the scoreboard. In Dortmund, Potter set-up in a 4-2-3-1, though James often had to tuck into the middle to match numbers in that area.

The 3-4-3 formation has delivered relatively more wins, clean sheets, touches in the opposition box, goalscoring opportunities and goals. It also liberates two of the Blues’ most effective players: wing-backs Chilwell, who delivered Fofana’s winner, and James, rested on Saturday.

That said, could it be time for a brave tweak? A 3-5-2 with Felix and Havertz next to each other might help both pressure the visitors’ back four, and create and take chances. Potter’s brief switch to a narrow box of four in midfield also looked like something he was maybe trying out for tonight.

The most significant factor this evening will be the players’ approach. We know they are capable of pace and physical intensity teams struggle to handle. For what is effectively an all-or-nothing match, the whole stadium should be ready to give everything.

Continental honours

Chelsea 9
Borussia Dortmund 3

Scouting the opposition – Dortmund

The big team news for the visitors is that goalkeeper Gregor Kobel, who starred for Borussia Dortmund in the first leg, could miss tonight’s showdown in London. The Champions League experience of his deputy Alexander Meyer, 31, has come in this season’s group stage, including in a 2-1 loss at Man City.

The Bundesliga helped the team’s European ambitions by staging the clash with RB Leipzig on Friday (a day earlier than Chelsea hosted Leeds), and the Swiss goalie was a key absentee along with striker Youssoufa Moukoko and first leg goalscorer Karim Adeyemi. Right-back Julian Ryerson is suspended.

The Westphalians have won all 10 matches in all competitions since the winter break, including that first success against English opposition after ten failures. Coach Edin Terzic had alerted pacy ball-carrier Adeyemi to the possibility of a quick break after set-plays for the Blues, and he knocked the ball past last man Enzo, then rounded Kepa for the decisive strike.

Terzic favours a 4-1-4-1 formation with Emre Can behind Jude Bellingham and Salih Ozcan in midfield but the team’s flexibility is impressive. In the first leg, wide forwards Marco Reus and Julian Brandt dropped back to outnumber the Blues in that area and block through-passes. In possession they worked the ball swiftly to pushed-on full-backs Marius Wolf and Raphael Guerreiro to bring Brandt, their standout since the winter break, and Reus into play upfront.

Misses next match if cautioned

Chelsea Conor Gallagher, Reece James, Kalidou Koulibaly, Mykhailo Mudryk
Dortmund Emre Can, Salih Ozcan

Champions League – the regulations

This is the second season since the abolition of the ‘away goals rule’, which gave extra weight to visiting teams finding the net when scores were level after 90 minutes of the second leg of a knockout tie.

That means any one-goal victory in normal time for Chelsea would take the tie into 30 minutes’ extra time with the possibility it is decided on penalty kicks, while any win by two or more would put the Blues in the bowl for the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final draw, which will take place from 11am on Friday 17 March.

The Londoners have won three and lost two of our past five shoot-outs in European competitions, including Frankfurt at the Bridge in 2019 and stretching back to success against Bayern Munich in the 2011/12 Champions league final. Chelsea have not been awarded a penalty since the departure of Jorginho and the new regular taker is Germany international Kai Havertz.

The amendment increasing the number of permitted substitutions from three to five has also been made permanent and the trialling of semi-automated offside technology (SAOT) continues in the knockout stages.

The 68th edition of the European Cup and 31st since it was renamed the Champions League will reach its climax with the final at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul next June.

German sides at the Bridge

This is Dortmund’s first-ever visit to Chelsea but we have an excellent home record against their compatriots. Before losing to Bayern at this stage three years ago, the Blues were undefeated in 10 encounters, winning seven and drawing three against German sides stretching back to the mid-Sixties in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup.

The most sensational game in recent years was the second leg of the Europa League semi-final against Frankfurt in May 2019. Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s first-half opener handed the Londoners a 2-1 aggregate advantage but after the break the visitors forced an equaliser and created plenty of scares in extra time.

The hero of the penalty shoot-out that matched Chelsea with Arsenal in the Baku final was Kepa Arrizabalaga. Cesar Azpilicueta saw his spot-kick saved but the ’keeper trapped Martin Hinteregger’s effort between his legs to square things, then thwarted Goncalo Paciencia to hand Eden Hazard his coup de grace moment.

Chelsea at home versus German teams


Champions League round of 16

Bayern Munich

L 0-3


Europa League semi-final

Eintracht Frankfurt

D 1-1


Champions League group stage


D 1-1


Champions League group stage


W 3-0


Champions League group stage

Bayer Leverkusen

W 2-0


Champions League group stage


W 2-0


Champions League group stage

Werder Bremen

W 2-0


Champions League quarter-final

Bayern Munich

W 2-0


Champions League round of 16


D 0-0


Champions League group stage

Hertha Berlin

W 2-0


Inter-Cities Fairs Cup quarter-final

TSV 1860 Munich

W 1-0

  • by club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton