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The reigning champions finishing second in the group stages is hardly the ideal recipe for success, but Chelsea were comfortably through to the knockout rounds in the end, even if Zenit St Petersburg did hold Thomas Tuchel‘s side to a thrilling 3-3 draw on the final matchday.
Following up their European success by becoming world champions earlier this year, the results have been there for Chelsea – currently on a five-game winning streak across all tournaments – but the performances not so much.
Tuchel’s men were frustrated for large periods of their showdown with Crystal Palace in the Premier League on Saturday, and it took until the 89th minute to bag the all-important goal through Hakim Ziyech, who had previously had one disallowed at Selhurst Park.
The Blues are certainly not considered one of the favourites to go all the way in this season’s Champions League – especially with their alarming record of four consecutive last-16 exits before winning the 2021 edition – but they are no stranger to defying expectation.
Little has changed in the way of Chelsea’s home form at the fortress that is Stamford Bridge, with the Blues winning their last four Champions League games on home soil without conceding a goal, and not since September have Tuchel’s men suffered defeat of any kind on their own turf.
Chelsea playmaker Mason Mount is still struggling with ankle damage and will likely be spared for the EFL Cup final with Liverpool on February 27, while Cesar Azpilicueta and Callum Hudson-Odoi are fresh concerns with knocks.
Ben Chilwell continues to recuperate from his devastating ACL injury as Reece James steps up his recovery from a hamstring issue, but the right-back is unlikely to be available for the first leg after catching the flu.
Another uninspiring performance from Romelu Lukaku at the weekend could lead Tuchel to consider a recall for Timo Werner, and Marcos Alonso should also make his return to the first XI after assisting Ziyech’s late winner against Palace.
As for Lille, Angel Gomes had to be withdrawn after just 27 minutes against Metz with a calf problem, so the door is open for Hatem Ben Arfa or Timothy Weah to start at Stamford Bridge.
Edon Zhegrova‘s red card at the weekend means nothing for this game but he is unlikely to start in any case, while Jose Fonte and Burak Yilmaz will miss the second leg if they are booked here.
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Gourvennec will surely consider introducing Renato Sanches from the first whistle in place of Xeka, and Zeki Celik ought to displace Tiago Djalo at right-back after serving a domestic suspension.
Chelsea possible starting lineup:
Mendy; Christensen, Silva, Rudiger; Azpilicueta, Jorginho, Kovacic, Alonso; Ziyech, Havertz; Werner
Lille possible starting lineup:
Jardim; Celik, Fonte, Botman, Gudmundsson; Weah, Andre, Sanches, Bamba; David, Yilmaz