UEFA Champions League nights are back! It’s been a while since Chelsea found itself this deep in the continental competition; neither luck in the draw nor results after it have been with the Blues during their last few Champions League campaigns. Seven years have passed since the team made it past the round of 16 of the competition. The Stamford Bridge outfit reached the semifinals that season, beating Paris Saint-Germain in the quarters. The draw has been kind to Chelsea during the latter stages of this year’s tournament though.
The Blues were able to avoid the likes of Bayern Munich and Manchester City when the balls were drawn two weeks ago. Instead, they were pitted against FC Porto. Sergio Conceicao’s men can be difficult to play against, however, they do lack the European pedigree when compared to some of the other teams left in the competition.
This tie became all the more significant for Chelsea after its loss to West Bromwich Albion at the weekend. Thomas Tuchel’s men were beaten 5-2 by the Premier League strugglers in one of the biggest shocks of the season. The German will be looking for a response from his team during its upcoming Champions League fixture. It is exactly there that we begin our quest to map out things to look for during the match:
Tuchel’s Chelsea team will be defined by the lessons it learn in defeat. The German tactician enjoyed a prolonged honeymoon period since being hired by the club. However, this is his first opportunity to take the measure of his squad’s mental strength—an attribute that was highlighted by past managers as a key weakness.
Chelsea was well-beaten by West Brom in their last match. The Blues were sluggish and made countless mistakes during the game—mistakes which the Baggies capitalized upon. Granted, that the team was on the back-foot the moment Thiago Silva was sent off, but was still completely outplayed by a side that is currently in the relegation zone. Nevertheless, Tuchel and Co. will know better than to dwell on the defeat. The games are coming thick and fast, and the next one holds significance.
The Blues’ match against Porto provides them with an opportunity to take strides toward the Champions League semifinals. It also presents them with a chance to respond positively following their first real setback under their new head coach. An inability to snap out of a negative streak has been among Chelsea’s key problems during the past few years. The team has gone on several spells of poor form during the same time; spells which cost Antonio Conte and Maurizio Sarri the support, and Frank Lampard his job. Was the loss against West Brom a blip or is it a continuation of a worrying trend? We won’t have to wait long to find out.