Frank Lampard and his bolstered squad kick off the Champions League season tomorrow as they get ready to host Europa League defending champions Sevilla.
The Champions League nights are finally back!
The Champions League season ended no more than two months ago, but it feels like two months too long. Tomorrow, however, we get to live the UCL in all its glory yet again as Sevilla travels to Stamford Bridge, London to lock horns against Chelsea as part of the first gamweek of the campaign.
Frank Lampard’s men were handed a tough draw last season, with Valencia, Lille, and Ajax competing with them for qualification. Chelsea managed to slither through but were drawn against Hansi Dieter-Flick’s rampant Bayern Munich in the Round of 16. The Bavarian giants showed no mercy towards the Blues as they hit seven goals past them over two legs, conceding just the one.
Sevilla, on the other hand, enjoyed a lot more success in Europe last season, cruising through the some of Europe’s best like Wolverhampton Wanderers, Manchester United, and Inter Milan to win their sixth Europa League trophy. It was the perfect swan song for Ever Banega, who was one of the best players in the competition.
Team News & Tactics
Frank Lampard has no new concerns ahead of Chelsea’s inaugural Champions League fixture for the season, but in fact, will have Thiago Silva back for this game after missing the weekend fixture against Southampton. Edouard Mendy, however, has not recovered yet and will have to watch the game from the sidelines.
Kepa Arrizabalaga had yet another horror showing against The Saints, and combined with Kurt Zouma to help the visitors score their second of the afternoon. Lampard has shown throughout his managerial career that he does not entertain errors like those, and we expect Willy Caballero to come in to replace the Spaniard in the six-yard box.
Thiago Silva will start alongside Andreas Christensen in the heart of the defence, hoping to start their European season with a win. Ben Chilwell will join the duo on their left side, which will be his first game in a Chelsea shirt in the UCL, and only the third one of his career. Reece James will be given the responsibility to provide width from the right.
Mateo Kovacic was given a rest on the weekend and failed to make the bench. He will come in for Jorginho in the double pivot, playing alongside N’Golo Kante, who has had multiple injury doubts over his head as well.
Finally, in the attack, as part of the front-four, Kai Havertz is expected to play in the no. 10 role, acting as the lynchpin for the offence. Christian Pulisic and Timo Werner are expected to retain their place in the lineup. Replacing Mason Mount, coming in to make his first start for the Blues will be the Wizard of Amsterdam – Hakim Ziyech – who received his official debut this Saturday. He will be slotted in on the right side of Havertz.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Caballero; James, Christensen, Silva, Chilwell; Kante, Kovacic; Ziyech, Havertz, Pulisic; Werner
Julien Lopetegui has a couple of concerns of his own, starting with an injury in midweek to Sergio Escudero, who had to hobble off for Marcos Acuna before the 20th-minute mark. The Argentine was not fully fit himself, and to be rushed on courtesy of a lack of left-backs in the team. That said, the bigger intricacy will be the absence of Jules Kounde, who tested positive for Coronavirus in midweek.
— Jules Kounde (@jkeey4) October 19, 2020
Sergi Gomez was brought in the heart of the defence to take Kounde’s place but was subbed off in the last five minutes as Sevilla chased the equaliser – to no avail, however. Mainstay Diego Carlos will be starting alongside Gomez, hoping to continue his spectacular form. This duo will be screening Bono, who has replaced Tomas Vaclik as the man between the posts after his incredible Europa League campaign last season.
Captain Jesus Navas will take up the slot on the right, hoping to make the best use of Chelsea’s poor man-marking in the box with the help of crosses. Acuna, while not fully fit, will have to slot in on the left side of the back-four.
Ivan Rakitic will be an important player for Sevilla in the Champions League this season, bringing in a plethora of experience from his time with Barcelona. He will start in the left-of-centre slot, while Joan Jordan takes up the opening on the right. The Spaniard picked up a red card against Granada on the weekend, so dropping him tomorrow makes little to no sense. Fernando will retain his place as the holding midfielder.
Lopetegui’s gamble in the attacking trio did not quite pay off against Granada, as Carlos Fernandez failed to take a single shot, let alone one on target. Luuk de Jong will come in for him to lead the line, with Lucas Ocampos accompanying him on the left. Suso will be the only forward from the weekend who will retain his place.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Bono; Navas, Gomez, Carlos, Acuña; Jordan, Fernando, Rakitic; Suso, de Jong, Ocampos
- This will be the first European encounter between Chelsea and Sevilla.
- Chelsea have won just one of their last nine UEFA Champions League matches against Spanish opponents (D5 L3), a 2-1 win at Atlético Madrid in September 2017.
- Sevilla have won each of their last three major UEFA European matches against English teams, beating Manchester United in March 2018 in the Champions League last 16, Wolves in August 2020 in the Europa League quarter-final and Man Utd again also in August 2020 in the Europa League semi-final.
- Chelsea have lost their last two UEFA Champions League matches – the Blues have never lost three games consecutively in major UEFA European competition.
- Sevilla have won just one of their seven away major UEFA European matches in England (D3 L3), a 2-1 win at Old Trafford in March 2018. All seven of their away games have been against different teams – Bolton, Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal, Manchester City, Leicester City, Liverpool and Manchester United.
Player to Watch
Tomorrow will finally be the game we get to watch the Wizard of Amsterdam in action for his new side after returning from an injury he sustained in the preseason against Brighton & Hove Albion. Signed for a mere €40 million, Hakim Ziyech, in theory, could be the solution for Chelsea’s creativity vows they faced in the last season. After dropping a 10/10 performance against Chelsea last season in the UCL, the Moroccan gets his chance to mirror some of that for the Blues now.
He will be vital against Sevilla, especially because the Rojiblancos are a very well drilled side, especially in midfield, where the likes of Joan Jordan and Fernando give their all to win the ball back. Ziyech will have to help Chelsea retain possession, but more importantly, display his imagination with the lobbed through balls he is famous for to bypass Sevilla’s midfield triumvirate.
Chelsea 1-2 Sevilla
Julien Lopetegui, since being fired from Real Madrid, made it a goal to resurrect his career, and he finally achieved it winning the UEFA Europa League last season. The Spaniard has created a well thought out unit, who seem to put their body on the line for a win.
The same cannot be said for Chelsea, however, who still seek the chemistry of a world-class unit despite having the individuals who can deliver it to them. Frank Lampard will have to fix a lot in his leaky defence if he wants to have a go against one of the best teams in Europe.