Chilwell injury robs Chelsea of deserved morale boost
Chelsea were only proud to play against Dinamo Zagreb after already qualifying as Group E winners and recovering some that were lost in the 4-1 humiliation at Brighton on Saturday.
But for Graham Potter and his team, the sight of Ben Chilwell limping late in their win over Dinamo significantly tarnished their 2-1 win.
“We tried to manage him, but he never played three games in a week. He must have had a build-up which I think has been good for him. That’s why it’s very frustrating. is a blow for us and a blow for him,” said a concerned Potter, who also questioned the defender’s World Cup prospects.
It was a surprise he hadn’t made more than seven changes since Saturday’s defeat at Brighton, with Chelsea’s status as group winners already assured and Armando Broja, Connor Gallagher and Hakim Ziyech capable of offer even more rotation options.
With a stronger team selected, their roster showed good character to recover from an early delay to record a more comfortable victory than the scoreline suggested.
But he said it all that the manner of the performance, and the boost to bounce back from that weekend loss, wasn’t even mentioned in his post-match press conference.
Potter will already be eyeing the weekend’s clash with Arsenal, with his two first-choice natural wingers – Reece James and Chilwell – now ruled out.
When the same thing happened to Thomas Tuchel last season, Chelsea fell and never recovered. Potter must now succeed where his predecessor failed.
Alvarez shows why Pep could afford to lose Jesus
For every three points won by Arsenal where Gabriel Jesus plays a starring role, heat is rising slightly over Pep Guardiola’s decision to sell him to a club that will subsequently be Manchester City’s most likely title challengers this season. Yes, City have Erling Haaland to more than fill the void, but Jesus’ replacement in Guardiola’s eyes has always been Julian Alvarez – we’ve yet to see much of his talent due to the sheer ridiculousness of the race from Haaland.
But with Haaland out with a foot injury, Alvarez has now set up back-to-back starts for Guardiola and you can totally see the Jesus comparison.
He was a willing runner and a good focal point for City in their 1-0 win at Leicester, but forwards are done and broken on their goal commitments, so grabbing three in the 3-1 against Sevilla was a statement of the Argentinian. Two assists – one to set up sensation Rico Lewis to score and the other a pass to Riyad Mahrez after tenacious pressure to regain possession – were backed up by a fantastically taken goal. If you squinted as you watched the goal due to the gloomy weather in Manchester, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was Sergio Aguero latching onto Kevin De Bruyne’s magnificent pass. The finish was very Aguero.
“It was a great night for Julian (Alvarez), two assists and a goal,” Guardiola said.
“We know how good he is. It’s difficult to play against defenses like Leicester and Sevilla, they defend deep but he found the right moments. He was patient, he fought, he recovered the ball – like Gabriel Jesus when he was with us.
“Julian is young and top class. He’s a special guy with a great work ethic. You saw the third goal and how aggressive he is off the ball.”
Real Defeat Embodies Celtic Waste
Celtic’s first Champions League group stage appearance in five years was a painful one, with the 5-1 thrashing at Real Madrid seeing them finish the campaign winless with four defeats and two draws to finish bottom of group F.
But there will be a sense that things could have been very different for Ange Postecoglou’s side had they taken some of their chances across the six games – with the game at the Bernabeu highlighting exactly that issue.
Josip Juranovic missed a first-half penalty to make it 2-1, while Thibaut Courtois made several saves to deny Celtic, who had eight shots on target, 14 in total and an expected 2, 16.
“At 2-0 we got our penalty,” Postecoglou told BT Sport, “2-1 maybe doesn’t change the result, but maybe gives us a bit more confidence and puts them under pressure. real.
“But I guess that’s the story of our campaign.”
Indeed, Celtic scored just four goals from 83 shots to post a conversion rate of 4.82% – only Rangers and Copenhagen have recorded a worse rate in this Champions League group stage.
But for all their waste, the loss to the holders also showed their vulnerability at the other end of the pitch.
Celtic have given the opposition plenty of chances throughout the campaign – Real had 25 shots on Wednesday night – to concede 15 goals in six games, with only four teams conceding more in the competition this season.
Postecoglou would have learned a lot from his first campaign in the Champions League group stage, but attacking performances like the ones his side produced in Europe should pay off domestically so they can give it a shot again the season. next to show that they have learned their lessons.