Chelsea find themselves safely through into the last 16 for the fourth season in a row. It’s a journey that started under Thomas Tuchel back in September against Zagreb; he lost his job after the final whistle. His successor, Graham Potter, came up against the side on Matchday 6 – and passed the test with flying colours in front of a sold-out Stamford Bridge.
Potter, who came in with no Champions League experience, was thrown into the deep end having to oversee five group matches. After the 1-1 draw with Salzburg on Matchday 2, we were left with little room for error if we wanted to stay in the competition. Sat on the bottom of the group with two points, with a Milan double header ahead of us, it looked a bit of a tough ask.
However, having beaten the Italian side twice, Chelsea ultimately secured a place in the last 16 on Matchday 5. This gave Potter an opportunity to experiment with tactics and personnel – but given our autumn luck, we still came out with injuries. Still, not only topping the group but securing qualification with a game to spare shows the good work that the new manager has done in such a short space of time.
I genuinely struggled to settle on one name. As such, I left the final decision to my followers on Twitter, with the option of Kepa Arrizabalaga, Trevoh Chalobah, Jorginho or Mason Mount – they went with Kepa. Beginning the season as Chelsea’s second choice, the Spaniard’s career has been reignited under Potter; it’s a real turnaround when you consider that he used to have one of the worst save percentages in Europe. He’s a massive reason why Chelsea have reached the knockouts and here’s hoping his confidence remains sky high.
A player who wasn’t quite player of the group stage but has made a great impact is Chalobah. Prior to Potter’s arrival he was seen as a fringe player by Tuchel but when Wesley Fofana went down in the first half against AC Milan on Matchday 5, he slotted straight into the team and hasn’t looked back since. Without his impact Chelsea were looking like having a defensive crisis, but his impressive run looks like continuing.
How far Chelsea will go in this season’s competition is anyone’s guess. When analysing the possible options in Monday’s draw, I’m more than happy with the possibility of facing Paris Saint-Germain. If we win we have to be branded favourites; if we lose we know we’ve gone out to the most expensive side in Europe. I do fancy our chances against the bigger opposition, as everyone in Chelsea blue raises their game. Our journey is to be continued...