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Chelsea’s Champions League Turnaround

Chelsea’s Champions League campaign looked extremely bleak at the start of the season. Two games into the competition and the Blues sat bottom of their group, having gained one point from a possible six in their opening two games.

Chelsea started out the Champions League away to Croatian side Dinamo Zagreb. Their opening game was one to forget as they lost in a shock defeat, losing 1-0 to a Mislav Orsic goal scored in the thirteenth minute. Chelsea looked depleted and lost in Croatia. They looked a shadow of the team that had won the Champions League two seasons earlier. It was a display to forget for both Chelsea and former manager Thomas Tuchel. The German was relieved of his duties as Chelsea manager in the wake of this defeat.

Graham Potter was then appointed as Chelsea Head Coach, succeeding Tuchel, just in time for Chelsea’s next Champions League meeting. The West London side welcomed RB Salzburg to Stamford Bridge, as Potter took to management in the Champions League for the first time in his career. The game ended 1-1, a lack-lustre result for Chelsea. Chelsea should have gained three points from the game, given the number of chances they created. However, glimpses of positivity were shown from Potter’s new Chelsea side, as their campaign started to look slightly brighter.

Chelsea then faced the toughest competition in their group, as they welcomed Serie A Champions AC Milan to Stamford Bridge. The Blues also welcomed back former Chelsea players Olivier Giroud and Fikayo Tomori, of whom faced their former team for the first time since their departures to Italy. Graham Potter’s visions were well and truly in motion under the lights at Stamford Bridge, as his team brushed aside the Italian Champions. Milan hardly had a sight of goal as Chelsea hit them for three. The result was a gigantic step forward in Chelsea’s European Campaign, as they picked up their first three points. They also in turn, lifted themselves up from the bottom of the group, whilst coming away from the game with some much-needed confidence.

The Blues next Champions League outing was in the reverse fixture with AC Milan, at the San Siro. The Blues were fortunate, with the referee handing them a controversial penalty in the opening stages. The same referee also sent Fikayo Tomori walking down the tunnel for the penalty challenge. Chelsea found themselves one goal up and one man up inside twenty minutes. The Blues saw the game out in a professional manner, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang netting to seal a 2-0 victory. The performance was strong and professional, as Chelsea, for the first time in the Champions League this season, found themselves sat at the top of their Group.

Under Graham Potter, Chelsea were unbeaten in every game going into their away fixture in Austria against RB Salzburg. Their unbeaten streak continued, as the Blues came away with a 2-1 victory, thanks to a stunning effort from Kai Havertz. The victory was narrow, but Chelsea created a plethora of chances. The Blues sealed Champions League qualification with a game to spare, and topped Group E, after winning their last 3 games in the competition.

Chelsea’s final game of the group stages was at home Dinamo Zagreb, the only team to have beaten them in Europe this season. Denis Zakaria made his first appearance in Chelsea Blue. The Switzerland International put in a stellar performance as he made his mark in West London. The Blues initially went behind to the Croatian side, but soon came back ten minutes later through a Raheem Sterling goal. Standout performer Zakaria, netted the winning goal on his Chelsea debut, as Chelsea finally managed to get a win over Dinamo. The Blues should have done a lot better with the 22 attempts they had on goal, but they saw the game out professionally and took three points for their efforts.

Chelsea have finished their campaign at the top of Group E and will enter Pot 1 of the Champions League draw on Monday. Potter has had a profound impact on this Chelsea side, as their spirit at the start of their campaign looked non-existent. Chelsea have put in some fantastic and they have taken exactly what they needed from their Champions League games, much needed points and wins. It remains to be seen how Potter’s side will perform in the Round of 16, but it looks positive for Chelsea thus far.

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