Chelsea host Lille in the final round of Champions League group stage games on Tuesday night, and after securing a point in Valencia last time out, qualification remains in their own hands, knowing a victory will send them through.
An Ajax win in Amsterdam over Valencia will mean Chelsea only require a point, however Frank Lampard will be keen to see his side get the job done without relying upon sides.
Lille sit bottom of the group, with just one point from five games, however Chrisophe Galtier will be keen to see his side exit Europe for the season with a result to leave an impression, and his young stars will have nothing to lose.
Lille often look to employ a 4-2-3-1 formation, and similar to how they set up in the reverse fixture, it would be expected to see them opt for a deep backline and utilise their attacking prowess on the break. Galtier’s side has averaged 52.1% possession in Ligue 1 this season, however in European games they have adapted their tactics to warn against the higher class of opposition, and have done so in similar games against the likes of Lyon (38.4%) and PSG (41.4%) domestically. This results in much less possession, and looking to hit teams on the counter, and as a result, a similar approach is expected on Tuesday. Not priced at writing, the Chelsea passing markets will be one to watch, with Chelsea expected to see a high volume of the ball on Tuesday night.
The deep backline is in part forced upon Galtier’s side by the lack of pace from Jose Fonte and Gabriel at the back, coupled with the pacey nature of Chelsea’s attack, spearheaded by the in-form Tammy Abraham, who Chelsea are becoming increasingly reliant upon. His all round nature will certainly be well equipped to cause the Lille backline problems, as if they try to chase the game or play a higher line, he has shown his willingness and clinical nature in games such as, against Southampton, whilst his goals against Aston Villa and Sheffield United have shown an aerial threat when teams look to sit deep. He did limp off once again at the weekend, however the early signs are that he will be fit for Tuesday, and could hold the key for Lampard’s side.
Chelsea have favoured attacking wide so far this season, relying upon an improved Willian and the upcoming talents of Christian Pulisic and Callum Hudson-Odoi to provide the width out wide. The full backs press on beyond their wingers to create overlaps and overloads, with the emergence of Reece James in recent weeks a particular stand out. A change to 4-2-3-1 on Saturday in defeat against Everton backfired for Lampard, as they missed influential midfielder Jorginho in central areas as N’Golo Kante in particular struggled, and it could see changes in midfield on Tuesday. However, they did manage a lot of joy down Everton’s left side, with Theo Walcott not able to match Alex Iwobi’s defensive energy on the opposite flank at times, and it would be no surprise to see Emerson return at left back for Cesar Azpilicueta to offer a greater attacking threat.
With Lille sitting deep and inviting the Chelsea pressure on, it opens up areas where they will look to target Chelsea, especially with the Blues expected to opt for a high defensive line to try stop the French side from getting out. The overlapping full backs will leave space in behind, and Lille are perfectly set up to counter these spaces, with their attackers impressing both this season and last in games they are expected to do this in.
Victor Osimhen leads to line, and has netted an impressive nine goals this season, at an xG of 9.89, showing they are providing the Nigerian forward with more than enough chances. The striker possesses excellent hold up play, as well as a strong aerial threat, highlighted by his 4.3 aerials won per game, and is well equipped to bring his team mates into play against a Chelsea backline which has shown particular struggles to the aerial game, and crosses from wide areas, in recent weeks. He netted the winner on Friday in a 1-0 win against Brest, and he will be full of confidence as a result.
Behind the Nigerian striker it is hard to guess who Galtier will opt for with his array of attacking talents, however with the likes of Jonathan Ikone, Luiz Araujo and Jonathan Bamba to choose from out wide, they are all well suited to exploiting the spaces left behind by the Chelsea full backs. The quick interplay between the forward has been evident throughout the season, and they will look to hit the Chelsea channels in hope of breaking down the defence on the break, and as a result, given the open nature and vulnerabilities that Chelsea possess, would be no surprise to see them create a handful of chances.
Coming up against a deep back line, Chelsea’s central areas will be relied upon for creativity, and after his struggles against Everton on Saturday, Kante could see his place under threat with Jorginho looking set for a return in the central areas. Lampard has opted for a midfield three of Kante, Jorginho and Kovacic, and this has seen an improved run of form for Kovacic in particular, who netted his first goal against Valencia last time out in the Champions League, before adding to it against Everton on the weekend. Whether Lampard opts to continue with Mount will be an interesting point, and with Chelsea needing to attack and a deep backline expected, it would be no surprise to see an attacking Chelsea midfield, with a quick tempo required to break down the Lille backline.
The context of the group does mean there are a handful of game situations that could play out, and need to be considered. Lille could opt to rest players with qualification out of the question, and a weakened French side would leave Chelsea with a much easier task to qualify. Furthermore, if Ajax were to race into an early lead against Valencia, it would leave Chelsea only requiring a point and could see Chelsea opt for a safer approach, so as a result it is worth taking this into consideration when studying the markets.
A particularly tough one to call from a betting perspective with the unknowns of Lille’s line up, one thing for certain is that Chelsea will look to get onto the front foot and attack Galtier’s side from the off.
If Lille do opt for a strong starting eleven, and given Chelsea’s defensive worries, it is hard to see Chelsea keeping a clean sheet. The aerial threat of Osimhen up front particularly stands out, and he himself is as big as 5.2 (Unibet) to score anytime, a value price when considering his scoring form. I would be tempted to take the Nigerian forward as an anytime scoring option, whilst Chelsea to win and both teams to score feels a good price at 3.0 (Betway).
There are the obvious concerns regarding team selection and game context, however it is certainly worth a look for the reasons discussed.