The Champions League last 16 fixtures are finally upon us after a two month break since the group stages.
In an intriguing tie we’ll see the current holders Chelsea take on French league champions Lille in a tie that would be expected to go one way but could well go the other.
Lets take a look at the tie in more detail and make our predictions to see who will progress into the last eight of Europe’s most prestigious cup competition.
Route to the last 16
Last season’s winner and the current World champions Chelsea had a pretty good group stage, but defeat on the final day to Juventus cost them the top spot.
Tuchel’s side claimed four wins and a draw from their first five games, including a memorable 4-0 win against the Serie A giants with an excellent record of just four goals conceded.
Lille on the other hand claimed top spot in arguably the weakest group of the first round, pipping RB Salzburg, Sevilla and Wolfsburg to the berth.
Jocelyn Gourvennec led his side to three wins and two draws including wins away to Sevilla and Wolfsburg to claim their path into the last 16, also conceding just four goals throughout the group stage.
In comparison though, Lille only managed seven goals across their six games while Chelsea scored more than double that with 13.
Chelsea are still struggling with some injury problems, with wing-backs Reece James and Ben Chilwell not yet fit. Mason Mount won’t be fit for the first leg but Cesar Azpilicueta could return to the team after missing the weekend win over Crystal Palace.
Romelu Lukaku’s form is in the gutter, but Tuchel is likely to stick with the Belgian in the hope that he can play through it and find a goalscoring streak ahead of the weekend’s Carabao Cup final.
Lille are at almost full strength for the tie, with the only absentee expected to be former Manchester United attacking midfielder Angel Gomes.
The youngster was forced off injury in their latest Ligue 1 game and is now expected to miss the game, while Orestis Karnezis will miss the game.
All of Andre, Renato Sanches and Xeka are competing to start in midfield, with the former two likely to get the nod.
Breakdown and Prediction
Chelsea have moved away from their 343 formation since their wing-backs suffered with injuries, and Tuchel has since gone with a 433 formation to get back to winning ways.
They still look to keep the ball for the vast majority of the game and attack down the wings but without Mount they’ve lacked that attacking mind in midfield recently.
I expect Tuchel to move back to his 343 for this game if Azpilicueta and/or Callum Hudson-Odoi are fit again, playing as the right wing-back with Marcos Alonso reinstalled at left wing-back after his assist at the weekend.
Lille will try to soak up the pressure with their usual 442 system and try to counter with the pace of Jonathan David in attack.
Realistically they will struggle to make that effective, because it’s exactly what Chelsea are set up to play against. Lille have been okay defensively this season, but they’ve struggled to find the back of the net and have a negative goal difference in their domestic league.
Ultimately, this is Chelsea’s tie to lose. They have the better coach, better squad and if they’re on song then they should be able to win this tie relatively comfortably.
Chelsea 2-0 Lille
Lillle 0-1 Chelsea
(Chelsea to qualify 3-0 on aggregate)
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