Chelsea will discover their Champions League group stage opponents on Thursday evening as the draw takes place in Istanbul.
As reigning champions, the Blues will hope to put up a better defence of their title than in 2012 where they were knocked out of Group E and dropped down to the Europa League.
Thomas Tuchel has taken Chelsea from a side who had not won a knockout tie in Europe’s elite competition in seven years, to one that convincingly claimed the crown against Manchester City back in May.
Off the back of their Super Cup win over Villarreal in Belfast earlier this month and the summer signing of Romelu Lukaku, there’s a genuine belief that Chelsea can go deep into the competition once again and potentially even retain their title.
Chelsea have been pretty fortunate in recent years to avoid any ‘group of death’ scenarios. Last season the Blues topped a group containing Sevilla, Rennes and Krasnodar – three clubs they’d never faced in competitive action before.
The previous season saw a young Chelsea side pitted against Ajax, Valencia and Lille, with the Blues once again progressing to the knockout rounds.
Things may not be as simple this season given the strength of opposition in pot two, with the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain, Sevilla and Borussia Dortmund all potential opponents.
Pots three and four also contain some tricky opponents with Porto, RB Leipzig, Ajax, Atalanta, Benfica and AC Milan.
The worst-case scenario for Chelsea would likely see Tuchel come face-to-face with former employers PSG.
In case you’d forgotten, the French giants signed Lionel Messi this summer along with Sergio Ramos, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Achraf Hakimi and Georginio Wijnaldum.
Kylian Mbappe’s future at the club is still undecided but the Ligue 1 heavyweights have quickly emerged as one of the favourites for the tournament.
Add Champions League regulars Porto into the mix – a side Chelsea faced at the quarter-final stage last season – and a rejuvenated AC Milan side now boasting former Blues Olivier Giroud and Fikayo Tomori, and suddenly Chelsea could find themselves in the so-called ‘group of death’.
The best-case scenario for Chelsea would be drawing Sevilla for the second season running. There’s a good chance Jules Kounde will be in west London before the end of the transfer window and so such a draw would offer him the chance of a swift reunion with his old teammates.
Despite the extended travel commitments, Zenit Saint Petersburg have struggled to make it beyond the group stages in recent seasons and so Tuchel would no doubt be happy to be drawn alongside the Russian outfit. They’d also be new opponents for the Blues with the two clubs having never faced each other previously.
Lastly, Malmo would round off a favourable group for Tuchel’s squad. Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea team comfortably swept aside the Swedish outfit on their way to claiming the Europa League crown back in 2019.
Call me crazy, but I would love to draw Barcelona this season given their ongoing struggles.
We’ve had some historic encounters with the La Liga behemoths in the Champions League era: the John Terry headed winner at Stamford Bridge in 2005, Frank Lampard’s byline goal in 2006 and Fernando Torres’ late goal in 2012 that almost made Gary Neville explode on commentary.
This would probably be the first time Chelsea would be seen as favourites against Barcelona and there’s always something special about seeing your team play at the Camp Nou.
Winning there even without the presence of Messi would be a big highlight for Tuchel this season.
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Source by Football London