Fresh from their 2-1 victory over Lille, which confirmed their passage to the round of 16 of the Champions League, Chelsea are purring. Currently in the top four of the Premier League, the Blues have gone under the radar at the back end of 2019 and, with best free bet clubs, have certainly earned their backers a bob or two. But, just how far can Frank Lampard take his outfit in Europe’s most prestigious club competition?
Chelsea’s attacking outlet has been well-documented so far with striker Tammy Abraham and midfielder Christian Pulisic being involved in 26 goals in the Premier League. And, the Blues’ 11-goal haul in the Champions League suggests that the London side have enough in their locker to trouble any side that they will get in the round of 16 knockout stage.
This attacking threat has done just enough to offset the problems at the back with Abraham registering his 13th of the campaign – incredibly, the only Englishman to reach that target for Chelsea since Lampard himself in 2012-13. And, the striker will surely be a safe bet to score for the Blues in the next round.
Regrouped after shocking start
Chelsea’s Champions League campaign began in the worst possible manner with a home defeat to Valencia. But, Chelsea regrouped and refocused, and, a superb victory over last year’s semi-finalists Ajax at their Johan Cruyff home and a phenomenal 4-4 draw against the same side gave the Blues the edge to qualify ahead of their Dutch rivals.
But, whilst Lampard’s side have been superb in attack and did just enough to qualify, their defensive weaknesses have been on show throughout the Champions League stages. Four goals conceded at home to Ajax and two against Valencia left the Blues with just a plus two goal difference with nine goals against the second-worst in Group H.
Though Chelsea are pretty much sorted at right-back and left-back (or wing-back), their central defensive problems have been there for all to see. Kurt Zouma and Andreas Christensen had nightmares against Everton in their last Premier League fixture, though the return of Antonio Rudiger did shore up the Blues’ defence somewhat against French side Lille midweek.
The lifting of Chelsea’s transfer ban can, however, have not come at a better time with Lampard surely going to delve into the January chaos in search of another central defensive figure. If he fails to bring in a top-notch defender, it could limit Chelsea’s chances of progressing further in the Champions League knockout stages.
Of course, with the abundance of young players Lampard has at his disposal e.g. Abraham, Mason Mount, Reece James, Fikayo Tomori and Callum Hudson-Odoi, the right mix of high standards and patience need to be applied. And, up until now, Lampard seems to have got it spot on. It remains to be seen whether such a young squad can cope with the rigours of the knockout stages.