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Back Chelsea to keep a clean sheet in the Caesars sportsbook.
The Blues might be in turmoil off the pitch, but Thomas Tuchel is doing an excellent job of keeping the team focused on soccer.
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It has been quite the week for Chelsea. On Thursday the British government announced that Roman Abramovich, the club’s owner since 2003, was among seven oligarchs hit by sanctions in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The government accused Abramovich of having “clear connections” to Vladimir Putin and being “complicit in his aggression”. The news sent shockwaves through the world of soccer and instantly plunged Chelsea into crisis.
No one knows how this saga will play out. The most important thing for Chelsea is to find a buyer as quickly as possible, but much will depend upon whether Abramovich is willing to accept his fate and stand aside. The government will reportedly allow a sale to go through but only if the current owner does not benefit in any way.
Chelsea are banned from bringing in any revenue at present, and their cash reserves are already dwindling. It seems unthinkable that the reigning European champions could go out of business, but that is the reality of the situation unless the club changes hands in the coming weeks.
Thomas Tuchel has enhanced his reputation amid such a challenging situation. The Chelsea manager has had to answer questions that should really be directed to those above them, and he has done so with honesty and dignity. The German has already committed to remaining at Stamford Bridge until the end of the season, but he – like everyone else – cannot look any further ahead right now.
Chelsea have won back-to-back Premier League games since the news broke, defeating Norwich City 3-1 on Thursday and then overcoming Newcastle United thanks to a late Kai Havertz goal at the weekend. Tuchel will try to keep his players focused on on-field matters as Chelsea seek to book their place in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
A two-goal deficit means Lille have a mountain to climb in the second leg, but the fact Chelsea failed to score a third at Stamford Bridge means the French champions still have a glimmer of hope. An early goal for the home team would set the Stade Pierre Mauroy bouncing and Chelsea might have to withstand heavy pressure from a side that has picked up form in recent weeks.
Lille were languishing in the bottom half of the Ligue 1 table shortly before the first leg last month, but they are now up to sixth spot after going five games without defeat. Lille have not so much as conceded a goal in that time; their five clean sheets between the middle of February and the middle of March are more than double what Jocelyn Gourvennec’s side managed between the start of the season and mid-February.
Finishing in the top six and reaching the knockout stage of the Champions League would represent a decent season for Lille. They may have won the Ligue 1 title last term, but several key players plus their manager departed at the end of the campaign.
Lille were never going to realistically retain the title, but a mid-table finish would have been an underachievement for a team which still contains plenty of talent. There is more optimism around the Stade Pierre Mauroy at the moment, but it is doubtful that that will be enough to stun Chelsea on Wednesday.
It is not always easy to put off-field issues to one side, but Chelsea have done admirably well in that regard so far. Once the players cross the white line, all the external noise fades into the background. In some cases, a crisis like this can actually bring the players closer together.
Tuchel will no doubt be looking to foster a siege mentality within the locker room. Chelsea might start to feel like underdogs – not necessarily against Lille, but in this competition as a whole. They should certainly not be written off as Champions League contenders.
Chelsea were not at their best against Newcastle on Sunday, but they still kept a clean sheet without too much difficulty. They also did so in the first leg against Lille, and a two-goal buffer means they will be happy to hold their opponents at arm’s length on Wednesday.
Even in their recent five-match unbeaten run, Lille have failed to score in two matches and found the net just once in two others. That, together with Chelsea’s all-round solidity under Tuchel, means it is worth backing the visitors to France to keep a clean sheet.
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|Lille vs Chelsea Information
|Lille vs Chelsea
|Stade Pierre Mauroy, Lille, France
|Wednesday, 16 March 2022, 4.00 PM EST
|How to watch
Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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