Graham Potter will lead Chelsea into the Champions League knockout stages tomorrow night and on the eve of our first leg against Borussia Dortmund, our head coach has been speaking about players, including the long-time absent Wesley Fofana, returning to availability.
By finishing top of our group prior to the World Cup break, Chelsea earned an away game first in the Round of 16, although we do face an in-form side with the German outfit having won all six of their games since the restart, although they have lost eight and drawn two of their last 10 games against English teams in European competition.
Dortmund vs Chelsea Sterling, Fofana, Kovacic and Zakaria injury update
Although Raheem Sterling remains absent having missed the draw at West Ham at the weekend due to a knock to his knee, suffered in training the preceding week, there are three fresh back from injury – Mateo Kovacic, Denis Zakaria and Wesley Fofana, the young central defender available first time since our Champions League home game against AC Milan four months ago.
‘All three are in the squad so that's good,’ said Potter at his pre-match press conference in Dortmund.
‘Like I said before the previous game, they were getting closer to minutes. The challenge for us is to build them up and to make sure they're right from a game-time perspective, but it's good that Wesley, Denis and Mateo are with the group.’
Another absentee at the London Stadium on Saturday was Kalidou Koulibaly but the defender has travelled to Germany having recovered from illness. Benoit Badiashile, who has partnered Thiago Silva in central defence in recent matches, is one of the players who missed out on being added to our Champions League squad at the end of the January transfer window. That was due to the regulations restricting numbers.
Mykhailo Mudryk, Joao Felix and Enzo Fernandez were the new signings added and all three made the journey to Dortmund.
Dortmund vs Chelsea suspension
There are no suspensions for this game.
Conor Gallagher, Kalidou Koulibaly, Mason Mount and Mykhailo Mudryk are one yellow card away from a one-match Champions League suspension.
In the Champions League, three yellow cards, as well as any subsequent odd-numbered caution (fifth, seventh, ninth, etc.) will result in a one-match suspension in the competition. All yellow cards expire on completion of the quarter-finals and are not carried forward to the semi-finals.
Chelsea booking list
Enzo 3 (already served a suspension with Benfica), Gallagher 2, Koulibaly 2, Mount 2, Mudryk 2, Arrizabalaga 1, James 1, Kovacic 1, R Sterling 1, Thiago Silva 1
Borussia Dortmund's Julian Ryerson is on two bookings so would miss the second leg if he receives a yellow in this game.
Dortmund vs Chelsea injury list
Edou Mendy, N’Golo Kante, Christian Pulisic and Armando Broja remain unavailable as they work on their rehabilitation from injury, and with those who are fit but not in the squad back in England too, Potter spoke about the plan for those this week.
‘We trained today [at Cobham] so the players that are out the group had a good training session,’ he reported. ‘They'll be free tomorrow and will watch the game and then we're back, so we can train on Thursday.
‘So they don't miss too much in terms of their own preparation. They'll be available for Southampton. The other players coming back from injury, Raheem, NG and Christian Pulisic, they'll just be working their way back at Cobham.’
On Borussia Dortmund and the Champions League knockout stage
Potter also spoke about relishing the test of playing one of Europe’s big clubs at this stage of Europe’s biggest competition.
‘Certainly from the break they [Dortmund] have had a fantastic run. They're a really organised team that attack well, defended well, and have got good individuals within there.
‘It's the knockout stage of the Champions League. The absolute pinnacle in terms of the game. It's a great test playing against a fantastic club in front of 80,000 here, so a wonderful occasion. We're all looking forward to the match, we all understand the challenge that awaits us but are really excited about it.’