Chelsea v Lille, Tuesday 10th December, KO 8pm
Preview by Will Reilly
It’s a game in which plenty is at stake. If Chelsea win, they will qualify for the Group Stages of this season’s Champions League competition. A draw would only be sufficient if Ajax beat Valencia in the other game in Group H on Tuesday.
As such, things are in Chelsea’s hands. Qualification would be a feather in the cap of Frank Lampard’s young team, a real confidence-booster and good experience to draw upon in the future. In such games are reputations established, key lessons learned and absorbed, and mindsets forged.
Nothing can be taken for granted, though, with Chelsea’s recent form being nothing to write home about. Seven-successive wins (in all competitions) have been followed by three defeats in their last five matches, including a 1-0 home defeat to struggling West Ham.
Worryingly, Chelsea have kept just four clean sheets this season in 24 matches. Overall, though, it has to be considered a satisfactory season so far for a young team at a club in transition but – yes, there has to be a but – this match, followed by a home game on Saturday against struggling Bournemouth, will provide Lampard with plenty of evidence as to how much he will need to be delving into the transfer market during the January window.
As for Lille, they can’t qualify for the knock-out stage of this year’s competition but it would be nonsensical to suggest that they will not treat this game with anything other than huge importance.
What is more, they will arrive in London in good form with three-successive 1-0 Ligue 1 wins under their belts. In fact, they have kept four clean sheets in their last six games, although they are not prolific scorers, having failed to score more than one goal in each of their last eight games. Striker Victor Osimhen, however, has scored 11 goals in 21 appearances for Lille this season. For Chelsea, Tammy Abraham has scored 12 in 18 starts.
It sets up an exciting, but nervy, evening at Stamford Bridge. The stakes are high. Can Frank Lampard’s young side deliver on the big night?
Verdict: Chelsea to win 2-1
The draw for the round of 16 will take place at UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland on 16 December 2019 at 11am (UK/Irish time)
Team News: The return of Antonio Rüdiger is a plus for Chelsea, although Fikayo Tomori’s absence a blow. Olivier Giroud is also expected to be absent, although no specific reason has been given for his absence.