When we take on Lille our opponents will have a familiar face among their ranks, in a striker whose important contribution to our 2014/15 title triumph is often understated.
Loic Remy’s down-to-earth nature meant he had a tendency to fly under the radar during his time at Chelsea, but Blues fans should be thankful to the striker for some important goals, especially during our Premier League victory in his first season here.
Now back in his homeland France after six years in England and Spain, Remy will be hoping to make an impact against Chelsea for Lille this evening, having been on the bench for their Champions League opener against Ajax, but back in August 2014 it was Stamford Bridge which was his new home, following his move across west London from Queens Park Rangers.
With the likes of Didier Drogba and Diego Costa also competing for the lone striker’s role that season, Remy found his playing time limited, with 17 of his 27 appearances coming from the bench, but he certainly did his best to make those minutes count.
The tone for his time at the Bridge was set right from the start, when he came off the bench to make his debut against Swansea City in the Premier League, and found the net after just nine minutes of action in a Chelsea shirt, completing our comeback to beat the Welsh side 4-2.
However, the difficulty of Remy’s task establishing himself in the starting line-up was underlined by the fact Diego Costa had already scored a hat-trick in that match, taking the Spanish international’s tally to seven goals in his first four Premier League appearances since his own summer move to SW6.
But the Frenchman continued to give a good account of himself when presented with an opportunity, not to mention endearing himself to the Stamford Bridge fans by getting his name on the scoresheet in a 3-0 thrashing of capital rivals Tottenham, and as we entered the second half of the season his contribution became more and more telling.
Having set the pace at the top of the table and established a healthy lead over the two Manchester clubs with a fantastic run, our form started to falter after Christmas. While it was no collapse by any means, we also weren’t playing with the same freedom and our strangle-hold on the trophy could have been in danger of loosening. Thankfully, Remy was often on hand to find a decisive goal in a game when we were finding things tough.
One of the early examples of that was when we hosted our closest challengers Manchester City at the end of January. Making a rare start due to Diego Costa’s suspension, Remy showed great striker’s instincts to open the scoring in the first half, taking advantage of some hesitant defending to turn in Eden Hazard’s low cross from close range. Although City equalised for a 1-1 draw, it was Chelsea who were the happiest of the two teams as the Frenchman’s goal ensured we maintained our five-point lead in the Premier League.
The situation was very different when we travelled to Hull City in March. After taking a two-goal lead in the first 10 minutes, we were rocking back on our heels as the home side fought back to 2-2, with both their goals coming in less than two minutes.
Remy entered the fray to replace the injured Diego Costa with 16 minutes left to break the stalemate, but he needed less than three, and only one touch of the ball. Again he was the one alert in the penalty box to get on the end of a low cross, this time from Willian, and his powerful shot gave us the winner.
He came to the rescue again against Stoke in our next match, taking a starting role with Diego Costa still troubled by his hamstring problem. On this occasion too we had taken the lead, through a Hazard penalty, but been pegged back as Charlie Adam scored an audacious effort from fully 65 yards.
Thankfully Remy was on hand to seal all three points for Chelea just after the hour mark with another close-range finish from Hazard’s pass, a goal which extended our lead in the table to seven points with eight games remaining. It was an advantage we would not relinquish.
The icing on the cake for Remy arrived in the last fixture of the season, as we hosted Sunderland at the Bridge on the day we would be presented with the Premier League trophy. In a fitting moment, our number 18 was summoned off the bench with the score tied at 1-1, and promptly found the net twice to make sure we celebrated our title with a victory.