Having ended the Premier League campaign successfully but then missed out in the FA Cup final, the Blues turn to Europe for the conclusion of the season, but there is much to do. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton preview…
One hundred and sixty-five days have passed since the first leg of the Champions League Round of 16 at Stamford Bridge. Until that historic 0-3 loss to Bayern on 25 February, Chelsea had been unbeaten in eight games against German opposition.
The Londoners are attempting to prevent the Champions League campaign finishing in the last 16 for the fourth time in succession, and in unusual circumstances because of the Covid-19 crisis. In different times, many Blues fans would be enjoying the Bavarian capital’s many attractions (and its Strong Beer Festival) rather than watching from afar.
Chelsea (along with Bayern) are one of just five previous winners left in the competition and, despite the imposing three-goal start, Hansi Flick cautioned against taking the visitors lightly. No team has ever won by three or more goals in the first leg of a knockout match away from home and failed to progress, yet previous meetings between these two have produced an average of four strikes per game.
The depleted Blues’ squad will have to show heart and tenacity even to come close to overturning a 0-3 deficit after a dispiriting Wembley defeat. It would be oh so Chelsea if we manage it, and no shame if we do not.
Liverpool success a pointer
Chelsea’s selection problems were heightened at the weekend by injuries to Cesar Azpilicueta, Pedro and Christian Pulisic. Billy Gilmour is already ruled out and Willian and Ruben Loftus-Cheek missed the Wembley final. Marcos Alonso (sent off at the Bridge) and Jorginho (who has accumulated three yellows) are suspended in this competition. Mateo Kovacic, controversially dismissed against the Gunners, is available for this game.
With extra places on the bench, Frank Lampard has added several young stars to the Blues’ B list: right-back Henry Lawrence, left-back Ian Maatsen, centre-back Dynel Simeu, midfielder Lewis Bate and forward Armando Broja.
Some Blues will be under more scrutiny than others. Callum Hudson-Odoi is likely to face the club with whom he was publicly linked a year ago, and Oli Giroud has found the net three times against Bayern in his career – two of them at the Allianz Arena.
One way to avoid Bayern’s suffocating pressing in the final third is to take their forwards and midfielders out of the equation, eschewing the usual patient build-up and playing the ball longer to a target man or pacy wide players. That worked time and again in the 2-0 victory over like-minded Liverpool in the FA Cup, with forwards finding space behind their high defensive line.
The hosts are dogmatic about playing the ball out from the back but are missing one regular member of their back four, and have not played competitively for a month. If Chelsea can manage it, targeted harassment may prove productive.
Bayern back from big break
There were 32 days between Bayern Munich’s last Bundesliga action and this weekend's showdown, so Hansi Flick organised a friendly against Andre Villas Boas’s Marseille a week ago.
Although the newly re-crowned champions of Germany looked a little ring-rusty after three weeks off, with the visitors finding gaps through the slightly out-of-sync midfield duo, Leon Goretzka and Thiago Alcantara, David Alaba formed a formidable barrier in central defence.
As the match progressed Bayern were back to pressing hard to gain possession close to their opponent’s goal, and might have registered more goals than Serge Gnabry’s well-taken effort.
The man who caused Chelsea so many problems at the Bridge in the first leg, left-back Alphonso Davies, pushed on with freedom, Alaba moving left to cover behind him. Even though Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller looked a little off the pace, the Blues will need to find a better way to release the constricting pressure of their forwards than was the case in the first game.
Against Marseille, utility man Joshua Kimmick stepped in at right-back for the injured Benjamin Pavard. Defender Niklas Sule also made his comeback from a cruciate injury suffered in October.
The decisive leg of this tie is away because the Europa League Chelsea holders finished as runners-up to Valencia in Group H. Bavaria should hold no fear for us, however.
The Blues’ first visit official visit to Munich came on Tuesday 15 March 1966 in the quarter-finals of Inter-Cities Fairs Cup against TSV 1860 Munich. A Bobby Tambling brace (after Wilfried Kohlars’ early opener) set up Tommy Docherty’s young side for what would have been the only away win of the campaign, but that was not to be. The snow-covered pitch was not conducive to great football and once Timo Konietzka had levelled, Barry Bridges was agonisingly thwarted by the surface when one-on-one with the keeper.
Almost two decades later another quarter-final, this time in the Champions League, followed at the Olympic Stadium against Bayern. The Blues had won the home leg 4-2 a week earlier, with Frank Lampard twice on the scoresheet (including his personal favourite goal).
The midfielder opened the scoring in Munich, and it was more than half an hour later that future Blue Claudio Pizarro equalised. It may not be his most famous strike in the city, but Didier Drogba put the Blues ahead until a late flurry almost scuppered the Londoners’ progress. The game finished 2-3, however, and Chelsea would be edged out by Liverpool’s infamous ‘ghost goal’ on the semis.
Our other encounter in southern Germany was produced the most famous nights in the club’s history, the 2012 Champions League final. The home fans’ huge display ‘Unsere Stadt, Unser Stadion, Unser Pokal’ (‘our city, our stadium, our cup’) suggested the outcome was a formality for hosts Bayern, but a brilliantly stubborn performance by the Lampard-captained Blues, who came from one down to level through Drogba’s expert header from Juan Mata’s corner, forced penalties. We all know what happened next: Mata missed, but Petr Cech was equal to the efforts of Ivica Olic and golden boy Bastian Schweinsteiger. Then: ‘Eyes on the ball, eyes on the prize… Didier Drogba.’
London’s last hope
Chelsea are the last club from the capital left in Europe yet again, and have added 17 points to our UEFA coefficient so far this season. Manchester City (21) and Liverpool (18) are the only English clubs to have added more. No other London club has ever won the Champions League.
Champions League regulations
The traditional option of night-before training on a European opponent’s pitch is not permitted under the special rules to minimise the coronavirus pandemic. Opposition scouting missions in-person have not been allowed either.In line with the Premier League – and unlike the home leg at the Bridge – five substitutes can be made tonight in a maximum of three batches (excluding breaks between halves or the start of extra-time). The maximum number of players on the bench has also been raised from 18 to 23 – a luxury usually reserved for the final. Video Assistant Referees and pitch-side screens will also be in operation.
Chelsea-Bayern games have often been high-scoring, and in the event of aggregate scores being level at the end of normal time the team scoring the most away goals will progress. That means any three-goal margin on the night other than 3-0 (3-3 over the tie) would be enough for the Londoners.Should the teams be level at 3-3 after 90 minutes, extra-time will ensue and, if that does not produce a winner, the tie will be decided on penalty kicks. The Blues have won the past two shoot-outs in UEFA competitions by four goals to three against German opposition: Eintracht Frankfurt in the 2018/19 Europa League semi-final, and Bayern in the 2011/12 Champions League final.
FA Cup fallout
The Wembley final attracted the largest television audience for a football match this season, peaking at 8.2 million viewers, 46.1 per cent of those watching the small screen at the time. Chelsea occupied all top three places, in fact.
Top five most-watched football matches of 2019/201. FA Cup final: Arsenal v Chelsea 8.2m (BBC)2. FA Cup semi-final: Man United v Chelsea 7.3m (BBC)3. FA Cup round six: Chelsea v Liverpool 6.8m (BBC)4. FA Cup: Norwich City v Manchester United 6.4m (BBC)5. FA Cup: Shrewsbury Town v Liverpool 6.1m (BBC)
The Blues will not now be called into action for the Community Shield on 29 August, a fortnight ahead of the new Premier League season.
Arsenal’s qualification for the Europa League means Tottenham must clear three one-off qualifying round ties over the first few weeks of the domestic campaign to join their neighbours in the group stage.
Next steps in Europe
After Saturday Chelsea or Bayern will decamp to Portugal for a mini-tournament of one-off matches. This tie’s winners will face a quarter-final against Napoli or Barcelona, then a semi-final on 18 or 19 August.Although the Allianz Arena will be closed to supporters on Saturday travelling between England and Germany is not subject to restrictions – unlike Real Madrid’s trip to Manchester City, which required government permission.
The match experience for tonight’s teams will be much like the Premier League, but with swift action required in response to fresh Covid-19 outbreaks, UEFA have announced new measures. Should new travel restrictions suddenly be applied on a competing country, disqualifications or automatic 3-0 defeats may follow if no viable means to fulfil the fixture can be found.
Those who progress to the last eight will be kept in strict isolation in Lisbon, with the climax at Benfica’s Estadio da Luz on 23 August.
Champions League round of 16 second leg
FridayJuventus v Lyon 8pm (agg 0-1)Manchester City v Real Madrid 8pm (agg 2-1)
SaturdayBayern Munich v Chelsea 8pm (agg 3-0)Barcelona v Napoli 8pm (agg 1-1)
Check out our pre-match stats