regular-article-logo Thursday, 28 September 2023

Champions League: For Graham Potter, magic is in fan power

After win over Leeds, ‘happier’ Chelsea look to overcome Dortmund challenge

Our Bureau London Published 07.03.23, 05:42 AM
Chelsea will take a late call on Reece James’ availability for the Dortmund game.

Chelsea will take a late call on Reece James’ availability for the Dortmund game. File picture

Chelsea boss Graham Potter has urged fans to turn up the volume at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday as his side look to erase a 1-0 deficit in their Champions League last-16 tie against in-form Borussia Dortmund.

The Germans have won their last 10 games in all competitions, including eight in the Bundesliga where they are second on goal difference behind Bayern Munich.


Chelsea have been knocked out of both domestic Cups and sit 10th in the Premier League, which leaves the Champions League as the club’s only realistic shot at a trophy this season.

But the fans were left frustrated after Chelsea failed to win for six games in a row after spending nearly £300 million ($360.81 million) in the January transfer window — more than Bundesliga, LaLiga, Serie A and Ligue 1 clubs combined.

“Fans are always entitled to air their views and they’ve been suffering like the rest of us in terms of the results we’ve had. The reception and support we had was fantastic,” Potter told reporters on Monday ahead of the second leg.

“They know the importance of the game on Tuesday night. They want the team to go through, to progress, and they know how important they are.

“We want to make sure it’s tough for Dortmund away from home in the Champions League and we need our supporters for that.”

Potter said Chelsea’s long-awaited victory, which came against Leeds United on Saturday to snap their winless run, had put a smile on the players’ faces ahead of the Dortmund game.

“Like everyone connected with Chelsea, it’s better when you win. Everyone is a little happier,” he added after the 1-0 victory.

“We’ve had some games where we could have scored more than one and we need that performance tomorrow (Tuesday) night. We’re playing against a top team, a team that is in a good place with the wins they’ve had.” Chelsea will take a late call on defender Reece James after he missed the Leeds match with a thigh injury while Christian Pulisic is back in the squad, but the game is too soon for midfielder N’Golo Kante who has been sidelined since August.

“It’s a complex one with him (Kante) because he has had a long time out. It’ll be a case of how we get him back up to speed to play Premier League or Champions League football,” Potter said.

“He won’t be able to go back in for 90 minutes any time soon, but the fact he is with us is exciting.”

Lack of goals

Scoring goals has been the biggest problem for Potter’s men, with the pressure on their expensive new recruits to start delivering.

Champions League rules meant only three of Chelsea’s January signings could be registered for the knockout stages with the attacking trio of Enzo Fernandez, Joao Felix and Mykhailo Mudryk making the cut.

Fernandez broke the British transfer record when he joined from Benfica for £107 million. But the Argentine World Cup winner is yet to have the desired impact in providing a creative spark from midfield and was found wanting by Karim Adeyemi’s searing pace for Dortmund’s winner in the first leg.

Chelsea spent £10 million just to have Felix on loan for the final few months of the season, but there will be little left to play for should they fail to turn the tie around.

At least Potter has tended to use Fernandez and Felix when available, unlike Mudryk. Mudryk has not started in the last three games and was an unused substitute against Leeds despite Potter making all five available changes.

Chelsea scored a first goal in four games at the weekend, but it came from a defender in France centre-back Wesley Fofana, who powered home a corner.

Written with inputs from Reuters

Today’s matches

⚫ Benfica vs Club Brugge

⚫ Chelsea vs Dortmund Both matches from 1.30am IST (Wednesday), Live on Sony Sports Network

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