Euro 2020 Special

Chelsea Find their Form at Last in the Champions League


After months of almost unrelenting criticism, the pressure on Chelsea manager Graham Potter has been relieved, at least temporarily, after his side overcame a first leg deficit to beat Borussia Dortmund and reach the last eight of this year’s Champions League.

And, whilst this does not constitute vindication of the club’s owners in sticking with the Englishman, at least the club’s fans still have something to look forward to after what has been an immensely disappointing season otherwise.

The German side, though, left Stamford Bridge fuming after the award of a contentious second-half penalty and, after the first effort was missed, the ordering of a re-take for encroachment.


Potter breathes a sigh of relief

Prior to this season, Potter had never even been to a Champions League game as a spectator but now he becomes the first English manager of the club to have steered them to a knock-out victory in this tournament.

Trailing by a single goal from the first leg, his team were level before half-time thanks to Raheem Sterling. Wayne Rooney is now the only English player to have scored more Champions League goals than Sterling.

What proved to be the pivotal moment came in the 53rd minute when Ben Chilwell’s cross struck the arm of Marius Wolf. Having initially signalled for play to continue, the Dutch referee was persuaded by the VAR official to consult his pitch-side monitor, and then, having done so, he decided to award the penalty.

Kai Havertz stepped-up, but missed his spot kick, which hit the post. However, before the Germans could celebrate, a re-take was ordered because of encroachment by several Dortmund players inside the area.

For the visitors that just compounded their sense of injustice, believing that the penalty should never have been awarded in the first place given the proximity of Wolf to Chilwell when the ball was struck.

Dortmund pressed forward for the equaliser that would have taken the tie to extra-time on the night, and Potter and his coaching staff went through agonies in the final minutes, barely able to watch what was happening on the pitch.

However, the final whistle brought joy to not only them and the players, but those in the stands who have had to watch their team mis-fire for much of the season, despite having spent a king’s ransom on new players.

It was the first time since December 27th that the West London club had scored more than one goal in a match.



This combined with the home victory against Leeds on Saturday means that Potter has been given some respite from the almost constant barrage that he had been under. The criticisms stem not only from the amount of money that the club has spent over the past two transfer windows – far more than any other club in Europe – but also because Potter has struggled to cope with a bloated squad, and does not seem to know his best team.

Despite the win against Leeds, they remain 10th in the Premier League, 11 points of the Champions League places with just 13 games to go.

Their prospects of a top four finish are already looking remote, and even European football of any kind next season is dependent on some of the teams above them dropping points in what remains of the season.

For any normal club, the impact on their finances of finishing mid-table would mean that they would have to constrain their summer signing. Chelsea, though, are not a normal club and they can expect to spend big again once the transfer window re-opens.


Champions League

There is still one route by which they might yet qualify for the Champions League again and that is to win it for what would a third time this season.

Realistically, given the calibre of some of the teams still in it – Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Manchester City to name but three – the odds are stacked against them. However, by beating Dortmund they have given themselves a chance and allowed their supporters to dream for a few more weeks.

That is far more palatable for their supporters than what they were facing had they gone out of the competition at Stamford Bridge.




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