Well it’s almost here. After watching all the other Bundesliga teams have their fun last week, it’s time for Bayern Munich to take the pitch against an old enemy. The last time Bayern traveled to London for a game, things went pretty smoothly, but Chelsea are a different beast from Tottenham Hotspur. They more than deserve their place in the last 16.
Wanting to find out more about our opponents, we caught up with David Pasztor of We Ain’t Got No History, who was more than happy to answer a few questions for us. A big thanks to David for taking the time to do this. Without further ado, here’s the QandA:
1. Who are Chelsea’s key absences for this game and how will they affect the team? What are the main weaknesses of the side?
Chelsea have been dealing with injury issues all season, including several key players seeing extended or repeated time on the sidelines. N’Golo Kanté, previously indestructible, has been dealing with a series of small injuries for almost a year now and will miss both legs against Bayern. Christian Pulisic, the big summer arrival and a name surely familiar to Bayern fans, Chelsea Academy duo Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek may or may not feature; for the latter, it would be his first appearance since last May.
In Kanté’s absence, the midfield belongs to Mateo Kovačić and Jorginho, while Pulisic’s absence means even more time for Willian. If Hudson-Odoi is unable to play, Pedro could feature, or Lampard could switch to a formation less reliant on wingers, and more reliant on No.10s (Mason Mount, for example) and wing-backs (Reece James, Marcos Alonso) as he did over the weekend against Spurs.
Chelsea have pronounced weaknesses in all areas of the pitch, but most glaring are the team’s terribly poor chance conversion (Chelsea are underperforming cumulative xG by almost 20 goals in the Premier League), the inability to defend set pieces, and the lack of confidence in the goalkeeping, which has seen world’s most expensive goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga dropped unceremoniously in favor of ancient Willy Caballero.
Given the reliance on youth, the team’s inconsistency isn’t surprising, but is still noteworthy.
2. Hansi Flick loves to press the opponent and dominate possession as much as possible. How will Frank Lampard try to deal with that?
Chances are, he will fight fire with fire. In late November, Lampard’s Chelsea restricted Manchester City to just 46.7% possession, which at the time was the lowest percentage ever for Pep Guardiola in his career (he would sink even lower the following month in a match against Wolverhampton, albeit away from home).
While Lampard isn’t dogmatic about building from the back and allows his goalkeepers to kick long if needed, he is quite unlikely to set his team up to defend deep with everyone behind the ball and just looking to counter — even if some of the greatest nights of his playing career came precisely thanks to such strategies.
3. Who do you see as a potential wildcard on your side?
Callum Hudson-Odoi making a big impact would be quite poetic.
Editor’s note: I wouldn’t stop screaming for a week.
4. Which Bayern player will be the hardest for Chelsea to deal with?
Which one won’t be? Lewandowski versus anyone is a mismatch, and Chelsea’s probable starting center backs of Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rüdiger, while both having Bundesliga experience, are not exactly world class.
5. Your scoreline prediction for the game.
Chelsea have shown a tendency to play up or down to the level of opposition, struggling against worse teams but generally managing to go toe-to-toe with the better ones — even if we usually end up not winning those. 2-1 to the bad guys.
Please check out our friends over at We Ain’t Got No History for some excellent coverage of the Blues. Alternatively, if you’re after more Bayern Munich content, feel free to stick around. There’s enough room for everyone on Bavarian Football Works.