Chelsea’s chances for European glory
The group stages of the Champions League are finally over, and whilst Chelsea had already secured their progression to the knockout stages, top spot was all to play for in the last game. Joint top of the group at the start of the evening but ahead of Juventus on the head-to-head rule, Cheslea just needed to better the Turin-based team’s result in order to qualify in first place, arguably handing them an easier tie in the next round.
However, despite being favourites going into the game with their predicted lineup, a poor defensive performance meant that Chelsea would end up finishing second in the group. Chelsea did take an early lead through Timo Werner, who netted for the blues in the 2nd minute, before Zenit not only drew level, but took the lead just before the end of the first half. Chelsea did draw level through record signing Romelu Lukaku, before Werner once again stuck the ball in the back of the net to seal the win for Chelsea.
The only problem was it wasn’t sealed, because a defensive error in the 4th minute of added time at the end of the game left the door open for Magomed Ozdoyev to make it 3-3 and equalise for the Russian side. It wasn’t detrimental to Chelsea, because as we stated, they had already qualified, but Tuchel will have wanted them to go out and get a win to top the group for a more favourable draw in the next round.
That wasn’t to be though, and so arguably they have the tougher path to take if they are going to defend their European crown. But who do they have the potential to face?
The draw is just days away, being drawn on Monday 13th November, despite the next round not being played until the new year. Of all the teams who topped their groups, there are only four teams Chelsea can face. That’s because they cannot face the team who progressed with them from their group, and they also can’t face teams from their home nation. And with Liverpool becoming the first English team to ever win all their group games in the Champions League, and both Manchester City and United topping their groups, it limits the options for Chelsea.
The easiest draw, going off sports betting odds, for who is favourite to win the tournament would be Lille who are ranked at 200/1. They topped their group when they managed a convincing 3-1 win over Wolfsburg in matchday six. But odds don’t always tell the full story, as Lille still had to compete to be where they are, and deserve to be there. Just because Chelsea happen to be favoured at 10/1 it doesn’t guarantee them anything, as you’ll see with their next possible opponent.
Real Madrid, the 13 time winners of the Champions League/European Cup, are also in the draw to face Chelsea. At 17/1, it is a much tougher pairing than Lille would pose when looking at it on paper. But, as stated above, odds don’t tell the whole story, and Real will testify to that when they lost 2-1 to the lowest ranked side in the competition, Moldovan outfit Sheriff Tiraspol. Despite that however, they still managed to go on and top their group, seeing an upturn in their form following a rocky start to their campaign.
The third possibility for Chelsea are Ajax, who not only topped a group containing Borussia Dortmund without recording a loss, they did so scoring 20 goals and conceding just five. They’ll be a tough task at the same odds of 17/1 as Real are, but could actually be more dangerous, as many could underestimate them. However, it was only a few seasons ago they narrowly missed out on a Champions League final when they were knocked out by Tottenham Hotspur.
The final possibility for Chelsea is the toughest of the lot, and the only team who have better odds for winning the tournament, German outfit Bayern Munich. The German side are second favourites in the tournament at 22/5, sitting behind last season’s finalists who Chelsea beat, Manchester City, who are tournament favourites at 7/2. But the way in which Bayern dominated their group, dispatching of Barcelona twice, and condemning them to the Europa League after failing to progress from the group stage for the first time since 2001, will make them an opponent all teams will want to avoid.
Chelsea’s chances at back-to-back titles
Chelsea are currently the fifth favourites left in the tournament, and we’ve already mentioned the top two, Manchester City and Bayern Munich. The remaining two sides are Premier League rivals Liverpool who are 6/1 to win a seventh European Cup, and PSG at 41/5, who like City are looking to win their first ever title
Both City and PSG were in the same group, and the English side got the better of them then, otherwise the odds may well have been the other way around. But in all honesty, both teams don’t have a great record in the competition, and so if we rule them out, Chelsea would then be a top three contender alongside Liverpool and Bayern, who are the real threats left in the competition.
If Chelsea can sure up their defence and stop the leaks they’ve had in defence, conceding five goals in their last two games, they stand a solid chance with decent firepower up top. And the good news is that despite losing talisman Edouard Mendy for the African Cup of Nations in January, even if he makes it to the final with Senegal, he will be back in time for the return of European football to Stamford Bridge. It’s just a case of whether the team can still fight on two fronts then if they’re still in the battle for a league title alongside City and Liverpool.