Chelsea and Bayern Munich will lock horns against each other in one of the most highly-anticipated UEFA Champions League Round of 16 contest this week.
Premier League giants Chelsea will welcome German Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich to the Stamford Bridge for the first leg of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie on Tuesday night.
Chelsea’s qualification to the knockout phase of the competition wasn’t all too straightforward. Frank Lampard’s men had to wait till their last group game against Lille to confirm their progression, as they finished second behind Valencia in Group H, winning only three of their six matches (D2 L1).
Chelsea’s form coming into Tuesday’s blockbuster tie hasn’t been great. The Blues have won just two of their last six matches in all competitions, although their 2-1 victory against local rivals Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League this past weekend will have filled them with great confidence.
Bayern Munich, in contrast, won all of their Group B fixtures, including two handsome victories over Tottenham, on their way to qualifying for the Round of 16 stage. Since their final group game, Die Roten have failed to win in just one of their eleven fixtures across all competitions, enjoying a fine run of form under new manager Hansi Flick.
Bayern head into the contest against Chelsea on the back of a 3-2 comeback victory against SC Paderborn. Having exited the Champions League at this stage last season, the German champions will be intent on taking a step towards the quarter-finals with a victory in London.
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Chelsea will once again be without the services of Christian Pulisic and Callum Hudson-Odoi, while midfielder N’Golo Kante is also set to miss out due to the adductor injury he picked up against Manchester United earlier this month.
Having switched to a 3-4-2-1 formation that worked brilliantly against Tottenham last week, Lampard could be tempted to stick with the same tactics when Bayern Munich come visiting. It will be interesting to see whether the Chelsea boss decides to reintroduce Kepa Arrizabalaga in goal, having benched him in the last three league outings.
The three-man backline is once again likely to comprise of captain Cesar Azpilicueta, along with Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger, with Reece James and Marcos Alonso, who scored in the win against Tottenham, set to continue as the wing-backs.
With Kante out injured, Lampard will continue with Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic as his two central midfielders, while Ross Barkley and Mason Mount, both of whom excelled at the weekend, ought to be retained in the attacking midfield slots.
Tammy Abraham was fit enough to be named on the bench last time out and with Olivier Giroud doing a brilliant job against Spurs, the Frenchman is likely to start again on Tuesday night ahead of the youngster.
Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Caballero; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Rudiger; James, Jorginho, Kovacic, Alonso; Barkley, Mount; Abraham
Bayern Munich will travel to London without long-term absentee Niklas Sule, while Ivan Perisic also misses out with an ankle injury. Javi Martinez is back in training, but hasn’t been risked by the German champions. Benjamin Pavard and Jerome Boateng, both of whom were suspended for the previous Bundesliga fixture, are back in the squad.
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Manager Hansi Flick used a 3-4-2-1 setup against Paderborn last time out, but could switch back to the 4-2-3-1 he has preferred for most of his spell at the club. Manuel Neuer, who committed a bizarre error in the last game, will continue in goal and look to put in an improved display at Stamford Bridge.
The returning Pavard ought to slot in at right-back while Alphonso Davies should start as the left-back, having been a revelation in the position. David Alaba is guaranteed to feature as one of the two centre-halves, with the other slot set to be a toss-up between Boateng and Lucas Hernandez. The latter could get the nod to counter the pace of the Chelsea attackers.
Joshua Kimmich should move back into the centre of the park, having featured as a defender in the last game. The German international will have Thiago Alcantara for company in midfield. Seasoned campaigner Thomas Muller, who was benched for the Paderborn tie, ought to return in the No. 10 slot for Bayern Munich.
Kingsley Coman should also return to the starting XI after being left out in the last game. The Frenchman ought to line up on the right-wing, while Serge Gnabry, who scored four goals on his last visit to London against Tottenham, will occupy the opposite flank. In-form superstar Robert Lewandowski will spearhead the attack for Die Roten.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Neuer; Pavard, Hernandez, Alaba, Davies; Kimmich, Thiago; Coman, Muller, Gnabry; Lewandowski
- Chelsea and Bayern Munich’s last Champions League encounter was the 2012 final, which the West Londoners won 4-3 on penalties (1-1 a.e.t.) at the Allianz Arena.
- The four previous matches in all competitions between Chelsea and Bayern Munich have produced 17 goals, an average of 4.25 per game.
- Under the current format, Chelsea have reached the knockout stages of the Champions League 14 times in 17 seasons since 2003-04 – only Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich can boast more knockout appearances over that time. However, the Blues haven’t made it past the round of 16 since 2013-14.
- Bayern Munich have reached the Champions League knockout stages for the 12th consecutive season – only Real Madrid (23) and Barcelona (16) are on a longer run. They have made it past the round of 16 in seven of the last eight campaigns, the only exception coming last season when they were eliminated by Liverpool.
- Chelsea have won only one of their last six Champions League games at Stamford Bridge (D4 L1), a 2-1 victory against Lille last December.
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The former Arsenal prodigy tore the Tottenham defence to shreds the last time he was on English shores. Gnabry was the chief instigator for Bayern Munich on that night, as they ran away with a thumping 7-2 win, scoring four goals and setting up one more.
In 29 matches across all competitions, the 24-year-old has found the back of the net on 15 occasions along with 10 assists. His pace and directness will prove to be a major threat to the Chelsea backline that has often looked vulnerable this season.
Chelsea 1-3 Bayern Munich
Chelsea come into the game on the back of an impressive 2-1 win against Tottenham Hotspur. However, the hosts haven’t been in top form of late and are likely to find the going tough against a Bayern Munich side that has been firing on all guns under Hansi Flick.
Both the defences have shown vulnerabilities, meaning there will be chances on offer on Tuesday. However, Chelsea have often struggled to finish off teams this term, which could put them at a disadvantage going up against a clinical Bayern attack comprising of an in-form Robert Lewandowski, Serge Gnabry, Thomas Muller and Kingsley Coman.
And hence, we at The Hard Tackle are tipping the German champions to register another handsome win on their trip to London and take a step closer towards the Champions League quarter-finals.