Champions League returns to Stamford Bridge as hosts Chelsea face Bayern Munich in the first leg of their Round of 16 fixture. Chelsea comes into this game with a lot of momentum after trashing Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 in a thrilling North London Derby. However, Lampard's side is struggling with injuries. Christian Pulisic, Callum Hudson-Odoi, N'Golo Kante headline the injured part of the squad. Chelsea do have Ruben Loftus-Cheek back in the squad and we can expect to see him at some point in the game.
Bayern Munich is in good form as they have won six of their last eight games. With Robert Lewandowski in phenomenal form, the Bavarians are the favourites to win the game at the Bridge. Here, we take a look at 3 things to look out for as Chelsea face Bayern Munich.
#3 Chelsea's goalkeeper conundrum
Frank Lampard has started Willy Caballero over Kepa Arrizabalaga for the past few weeks. There have also been rumours that the Chelsea board is planning to buy a new goalkeeper in the summer. Lampard has stated that he is trying to create some competition for the goalkeeper's position. While that is justifiable, keeping the 'world's most expensive' keeper on the bench for a month isn't exactly the ideal scenario.
Against Bayern, Lampard has a huge call to make. If Caballero starts tonight, it will effectively signal the end of Arrizabalaga's Chelsea career. If he isn't good enough to start Chelsea's biggest game this season, then he should look to move on.
Chelsea's starting line-up will signal Lampard's intentions to the squad, the board, and the fans. So, it will to interesting to see the teamsheet tonight, as there will be some serious repercussions irrespective of what happens.
#2 The Lewandowski vs Rudiger tussle
Robert Lewandowski has been one of the best strikers in Europe this season. The 31-year old has scored a whopping 38 goals in 32 appearances so far. What is even more surprising is that Lewandowski has been extremely clinical in his finishing as he has managed to finish even the slimmest of chances.
Chelsea should start with a back three again featuring Antonio Rudiger, Andreas Christensen (with a warrior mask), and Cesar Azpilicueta. Christensen started as the middle center-back against Spurs. However, Rudiger should be playing in the middle tonight to match the physicality and heading ability of Lewandowski.
Lewandowski is extremely strong in the air and has a knack of muscling his way through the defense. This is where Rudiger can use his skill set and stop Lewandowski before he gets anywhere near the box. Another important feature of Rudiger's game is that he knows where tactical fouls are needed to intercept attacks, and that is something that can be used to stop the Polish from scoring.
#3 Chelsea's defensive concentration
Bayern has one of the most formidable attacks in Europe featuring the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Serge Gnabry, and Phillipe Coutinho. In contrast, Chelsea has a weak defense that has struggled to keep clean sheets throughout the season. Hence, it is easy to guess that Chelsea will be defending for large periods.
Against a team like Bayern, even a single chance can prove to be the difference due to their clinical finishing abilities. Their attack is extremely efficient in converting chances to goals and Chelsea has to be careful of giving them too much space. Chelsea should focus on defending behind the ball and hitting the Bavarians on the counter. The wingbacks can be the key to Chelsea attacks as they can move the ball into wide areas and release the likes of Mason Mount and Olivier Giroud.
Chelsea must remain patient throughout the game as possession will be scarce. They must remain alert at all times and cut passing lanes continuously. If Chelsea manages to block the link between their midfield and attack, then they can overwhelm Bayern with their pace and energy like Liverpool did last year.
Published 25 Feb 2020, 14:14 IST