European and recently crowned world champions Chelsea continue their Champions League defence in a round of 16 clash with Lille.
The reigning Ligue 1 champions visit Stamford Bridge after topping Group G, while Chelsea finished second in Group H behind Juventus.
Chelsea recently triumphed at the Club World Cup held in the United Arab Emirates, beating Al Hilal 1-0 in the semi-final before going on to see off Palmeiras 2-1 in extra time, courtesy of Kai Havertz’s penalty.
That victory secured Thomas Tuchel’s third major trophy at Chelsea, having won the Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and now the Club World Cup. The Blues have won every possible trophy under owner Roman Abramovich who has bankrolled an almighty transformation on the pitch from the Chelsea of old.
Chelsea secured passage to the last-16 with a second placed finish, missing out on top spot after being held to a thrilling 3-3 draw with Zenit as Juventus qualified as group winners. Despite taking second spot, Tuchel’s side will be seen as strong favourites for this encounter.
After a disappointing December of dropping points against West Ham, Everton, Wolves and Brighton, Chelsea have all but fell out of the Premier League title race. The West London side will inevitably be directing most of their attention towards European football’s top prize.
Chelsea have not lost on home soil since way back in September, when they were edged out by Man City as Gabriel Jesus made the difference. Thomas Tuchel’s side will be confident of getting off to a winning start at the fortress that is Stamford Bridge.
While Chelsea have won their last five consecutive games across all competitions, performances have been somewhat underwhelming of late. It took the Blues until the 89th minute to unlock Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park thanks to a Hakim Ziyech goal – Romelu Lukaku had just seven touches all match, the fewest in a single Premier League game since data has been collected (2003-04).
Mason Mount, Cesar Azpilicueta and Callum Hudson Odoi are nursing knocks but could all feature in the matchday squad. Ben Chilwell is the notable long-term absentee, while Reece James continues to step up his recovery.
The poor recent form of Romelu Lukaku could earn Timo Werner a recall to the starting XI, who has mainly been slammed for poor finishing as opposed to work rate – unlike his Belgian colleague.
Chelsea Predicted Team
Mendy; Christensen, Silva, Rudiger; Azpilicueta, Jorginho, Kovacic, Alonso; Ziyech, Havertz; Werner
Lille enter the last-16 of the Champions League for just the second time in their history off the back of an indifferent run of form, winning two, drawing two and losing two in their last six fixtures across all competitions.
Despite a stuttering start to Group G taking two points from their opening three fixtures, Les Dogues rallied to successive wins over Sevilla, Red Bull Salzburg and Wolfsburg to claim top spot and set up a clash with the European champions.
Star Canadian forward Jonathan David has set the pitch alight for both Lille and Canada during the current campaign. He has netted 12 goals in Ligue 1, level with Kylian Mbappe – only Monaco’s Wissam Ben Yedder has scored more (14). The striker also sits second on the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying top scorers with nine goals and five assists, as Canada have all but guaranteed their place at Qatar 2022.
Followers of the Premier League will be greeted by some familiar faces at Lille, although Angel Gomes, Manchester United youth product, may be unable to feature after picking up a calf strain in their 0-0 draw with Metz. This could see the enigmatic Hatem Ben Arfa return to the fold.
The two sides boast some truly brilliant mutual players to have represented both clubs:
Lille’s inconsistent league form has seen the side slip down to 11th spot in Ligue 1 and Jocelyn Gourvennec will look to throw everything at Chelsea, although, his side remain heavy underdogs to progress to the quarter-finals.
Lille Predicted Team:
Jardim; Celik, Fonte, Botman, Gudmundsson; Weah, Andre, Sanches, Bamba; David, Yilmaz
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