This week saw Chelsea begin their defence of their Champions League title with a tough home match against Zenit St Petersburg. The game ended as a tight 1-0 win for Chelsea and it reveals that Thomas Tuchel’s team has the grit and determination to grind out results against tough opponents.
Chelsea were frustrated in the first half as the three central defenders of Zenit St Petersburg offered absolutely nothing in the way of chances for the London team’s star striker, Romelu Lukaku. But as the second half progressed, space started to open up for Chelsea and Cesar Azpilicueta put in a well-timed cross that Lukaku showed the bravery necessary to give his team those all-important three points.
Lukaku is increasingly looking like the missing piece Chelsea needed to take their aspirations to the next level. Since arriving from Inter Milan, the Belgian striker has racked up four goals in four games and is giving Chelsea that consistency in front of goal that was largely absent last season.
This has been doubled up by an increasingly strong Chelsea defence. Since Tuchel took over as manager, the team have managed 23 clean sheets across all competitions. Much of this has been put down to the goalkeeping excellence of Edouard Mendy, but defenders like Azpilicueta have grown in stature while the massive presence of Antonio Rudiger has the power to dominate lesser teams’ attacks. Plus when coupled with busy midfielders such as Mateo Kovacic and UEFA Men’s Player of the Year winner Jorginho, it’s easy to see why Chelsea fans are getting very excited about the upcoming season.
Of course, it’s easy to get carried away in analysing the fortunes of a club like Chelsea. Part of the reason why soccer fans will enjoy having PlayUp reviewed by CaptainGambling is that it shows that the bookmaker gives honest odds for the likelihood of Chelsea retaining the Champions League title. As it stands, most bookies have Chelsea behind Paris Saint Germain, Bayern Munich and Manchester City in the odds of winning the 2021/22 Champions League. Not that Thomas Tuchel’s team will mind being the underdogs once more and they will relish the chance to claim the Champions League trophy again.
Favourites to top Group H
Chelsea have managed to get themselves a relatively easy group in this year’s Champions League. Apart from the aforementioned Zenit St Petersburg, Chelsea will have to take on the Swedish side Malmo and the Italian titans Juventus.
Of all of these teams, it is only Juventus who present a real challenge to stopping Chelsea claiming the top spot in Group H. The Italian team have struggled in the Champions League in recent years and seem to be beset with many more problems than just the loss of star player Cristiano Ronaldo.
While Juventus won their opening game against Malmo 3-0 away from home, it’s hard to see how the Italian team are going to be able to compete with the best. While players like Paulo Dybala and former Chelsea striker Alvaro Morata can get the goals, it’s surely a stretch to imagine Juventus claiming their first European champions title since 1996.
The game between Chelsea and Juventus takes place on 29 September and it’ll pose a true test for Tuchel’s team. Before that, Chelsea travel to Tottenham in the Premier League, and it’s a London derby that Chelsea have had the upper hand of recently. If the West London club can survive these two tough challenges, then it’ll give Chelsea even more optimism for what could be a fantastic season.