Chelsea left with one last shot to survive in Champions League


General view of the stand during the match between Chelsea v Newcastle United. — Reuters/File

LONDON: Chelsea have one final shot to save their season when Borussia Dortmund visit Stamford Bridge in the last 16 of the Champions League on Tuesday defending a 1-0 first-leg lead.

Despite an all-time record investment of over £500 million ($603 million) in one season by the Blues’ new owners, Chelsea are languishing in 10th in the Premier League and crashed out early in both domestic cups to Manchester City.

Graham Potter stopped the rot with a 1-0 victory over Leeds on Saturday to end a six-game winless run.

But the manner of victory failed to quash doubts that Potter’s job could be on the line against the German giants.

Dortmund travel to London on the back of a 10-game winning run that has taken Edin Terzic’s men into a share of the Bundesliga lead alongside Bayern Munich.

Chelsea, by contrast, are looking up at Brentford, Brighton and Fulham after three wins in their last 16 games.

Scoring goals has been the biggest problem for Potter´s men, with the pressure on their expensive new recruits to start delivering.

Champions League rules meant only three of Chelsea’s January signings could be registered for the knockout stages with the attacking trio of Enzo Fernandez, Joao Felix and Mykhailo Mudryk making the cut.

Missing Mudryk

Fernandez broke the British transfer record when he joined from Benfica for £107 million.

But the Argentine World Cup winner is yet to have the desired impact in providing a creative spark from midfield and was found wanting by Karim Adeyemi’s searing pace for Dortmund’s winner in the first leg three weeks ago.

Chelsea spent £10 million just to have Felix on loan for the final few months of the season, but there will be little left to play for should they fail to turn the tie around.

At least Potter has tended to use Fernandez and Felix when available, unlike Mudryk.

Chelsea gazumped Arsenal to sign the Ukrainian from Shakhtar Donetsk for an initial 70 million euros (£62 million, $74 million), rising to 100 million euros in add-ons.

But Mudryk has not started in the last three games and was an unused substitute against Leeds despite Potter making all five available changes.

Chelsea scored the first goal in four games at the weekend, but it came from a defender in France centre-back Wesley Fofana, who powered home a corner.

“We have to attack better as a team,” said Potter. “That’s my responsibility. It’s too easy to zoom in on individuals and blame them. It’s a collective, we have to create more, do better, and that starts with me.

“Helping the team get better chances, more chances. I don’t doubt the quality of the players.”

Despite an injury-disrupted first season at Stamford Bridge, Raheem Sterling remains Chelsea’s joint-top scorer this season with six in all competitions.

Sterling has not netted since January 1, but Potter believes he could provide the spark his side need against Dortmund.

The England international scored 24 goals in 67 games for Manchester City in Europe’s premier club competition prior to his £50 million move last summer.

“His goalscoring record in the Champions League speaks for itself,” added Potter.

“He’s a proven campaigner in that competition. We’re delighted with that, we’re looking forward to having him on the pitch on Tuesday, hopefully enjoying his football.”


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