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Champions League rule change affecting Man City and Liverpool that Chelsea must beware next week


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Chelsea will continue their pursuit of a second successive Champions League crown next week when Lille visit Stamford Bridge in the first leg of their last-16 tie.

Thomas Tuchel’s side finished second in their group to Juventus but somewhat lucked out in the first knockout draw, dodging the likes of Real Madrid and Bayern Munich and drawing the French side.

Kai Havertz was the hero in Porto last May with his first-half goal enough to earn the Blues a 1-0 win over Manchester City in the final and earn the club their second European crown.

Retaining the trophy is one of the hardest challenges in football, however, so Tuchel will need his troops at the peak of their powers.

While Chelsea will not face Lille until next week, the tournament resumes on Tuesday with Liverpool and Manchester City both in action.

City travel to Portugal to face Sporting Lisbon while Liverpool take on Inter Milan in the San Siro on Wednesday.

Both will be among the first clubs to experience a new rule in a knockout stage, introduced by UEFA at the start of the season that will see the away goals rule scrapped.

UEFA confirmed back in June that the rule would be binned after reaching an agreement. They were also ditched for the Europa League and Europa Conference League.

“The away goals rule has been an intrinsic part of UEFA competitions since it was introduced in 1965,” UEFA president Alexander Ceferin said at the time.

“However, the question of its abolition has been debated at various UEFA meetings over the last few years. Although there was no unanimity of views, many coaches, fans and other football stakeholders have questioned its fairness and have expressed a preference for the rule to be abolished.

“The impact of the rule now runs counter to its original purpose as, in fact, it now dissuades home teams – especially in first legs – from attacking, because they fear conceding a goal that would give their opponents a crucial advantage.

“There is also criticism of the unfairness, especially in extra time, of obliging the home team to score twice when the away team has scored.

“It is fair to say that home advantage is nowadays no longer as significant as it once was. Taking into consideration the consistency across Europe in terms of styles of play, and many different factors which have led to a decline in home advantage, the UEFA Executive Committee has taken the correct decision in adopting the view that it is no longer appropriate for an away goal to carry more weight than one scored at home.”

The change means that, if aggregate scores are level at full-time in the second leg, games will be settled by extra time and penalties, rather than on away goals.

It is a change that Chelsea will need to consider when Lille visit Stamford Bridge next week and when the Blues travel to France themselves.

Tuchel has suffered a potential blow in that respect with UEFA previously confirming that games in France will not be moved to neutral venues as a way of bypassing strict COVID-19 restrictions.

It means unvaccinated Chelsea players will not be allowed to travel for the game.

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