Chelsea’s path to the Champions League places last season was not an easy one.
During a stormy season with Maurizio Sarri at the helm, the club managed to keep their nose ahead of their top 4 rivals through the spring.
They weren’t great, but they were better than their competition, and in the end the collapse of the rest of the chasing pack meant the Blues were able to stumble over the line.
Getting into the Champions League was one thing, and essential for attracting top players and keeping the club’s finances healthy. But it’s not just about getting in, it’s about making progress and trying to lift club football’s biggest prize for a second time.
Champions League odds for this season don’t list us as one of the favourites. In fact, you won’t find many past seasons where Chelsea have been bigger outsiders for the trophy.
The tough draw we got for this second round hasn’t helped, with our old enemies Bayern Munich coming out of the hat to take us on next week.
The Bavarians will always be keen to avenge the 2012 final, and this year the added spice of the Callum Hudson-Odoi transfer saga that ended just 12 months ago will also add interest.
Chelsea manager Frank Lampard played in the 2012 final, as well as several high profile clashes before that. His spinning, chested control followed by a left-foot volley against the German giants was one of his most memorable goals in our colours, and this will be a special game for him too.
It’s a first European knockout game for the rookie manager and for a lot of these players too. Fans aren’t expecting them to win – the bookies certainly aren’t – but they are expecting their team to put in a spirited performance, as they did repeatedly in the group stage.
This is all part of the team’s growth, and it’s important that it’s a positive experience, whether they go through or not.
Lampard will hope to have Christian Pulisic back to full fitness by then, and hopefully Tammy Abraham will have shaken off the ankle problem that sees him playing with painkilling injections at the moment.
It will come too soon for Ruben Loftus-Cheek, unfortunately, and he will be desperate to see him teammates go through not only for the sake of the team, but also so that he has a shot at his own Champions League debut.
Whatever happens in the tie, Chelsea can come away a better team, more experienced and more prepared for next year, when we should be back among the favourites to win the competition.