Preview: Chelsea can only hope Champions League history is repeated

AP , Monday 6 Mar 2023

After a nightmare start to his Chelsea career, Graham Potter is left hoping history will repeat itself for the troubled London club.

Graham Potter
Chelsea s head coach Graham Potter leaves the field after the English Premier League soccer match between Chelsea and Southampton at the Stamford Bridge stadium in London, Saturday, Feb. 18, 2023. AFP


The pressure is still on the Chelsea manager, even after Saturday's much-needed win against Leeds.

And it will only grow if his team fails to overturn a 1-0 first leg loss to Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League round of 16 on Tuesday.

European club soccer's biggest prize represents Chelsea's last chance of silverware this season and likely its only route back into the competition next term.

Potter, however, can be encouraged by the fact that Chelsea's previous two triumphs in the Champions League came in similarly troubled campaigns.

Chelsea was crowned champion of Europe for the first time in 2012 after firing then-manager Andre Villas-Boas in March and turning to former player Roberto di Matteo to salvage the season.

He did more than that - winning a Champions League and FA Cup double in less than three months in charge.

Thomas Tuchel was hired to replace Frank Lampard in January 2021 with a top-four finish looking in jeopardy. The German went on to the capture the club's second Champions League title four months later.

It was typical of former owner Roman Abramovich's reign, when Chelsea made a habit of finding success on the field, despite chaos off it.

There is little sign of that this year, however, in a campaign that has been unravelling since October.

Under new owners Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital there has been major upheaval - from firing the hugely popular Tuchel to embarking on a spectacular transfer spend of around $660 million. But their first 10 months in charge have also seen the team spiral downwards with Potter managing just three wins in the Premier League since mid-October.

It is an alarming run that has brought Potter's future into question just six months into the job. And while the win against Leeds has at least ended a six-game winless sequence in all competitions, it will take much more to convince fans he is the right man to take the club forward.

Dortmund has been seen as crucial to Potter turning his reign around, with elimination leaving him with little to play for in the remaining months of the season and little to look forward to next term.

“We have to play well, be positive. It’s a special occasion for us to try to get into the last eight of the Champions League,” Potter said Monday. “We’ve had some games where we could’ve scored more than one and we need that performance tomorrow night. We’re playing against a top team, a team that is in a good place with the wins they’ve had. The boys are in a good place and are motivated. We want to give it our best.”

Some fans already believe Potter's time is up.

An online position calling for him to be fired had nearly 50,000 signatures.

Potter hopes that dissent is not on show at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.

“Fans are always entitled to air their views and they are suffering like the rest of us,” he said. “They want the team to go through and progress, and they know how important they are. We want to make it tough for Dortmund and they will help do that.”

N'Golo Kante will not be available for the match despite returning to training after being out with a hamstring injury since August.

Potter will make a late decision on Reece James following a tight hamstring, but Christian Pulisic is in the squad after a knee problem.

Dortmund's Karim Adeyemi scored the only goal in the first leg, but will miss the game after failing to recover from a muscle injury in time.

Goalkeeper Gregor Kobel missed Dortmund's 2-1 win over Leipzig on Friday with a reported thigh injury and was replaced by Alexander Mayer, but has travelled with the squad to London.

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)

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