Chelsea travelled to St.Petersburg to play Zenit in MD 6 of the Champions League Group Stage. Zenit had already sealed a place in the Europa League while Chelsea were looking to finish top of the group but would need to match or better whatever result Juventus got. Tuchel went with a strong lineup with Kepa in goal, and a back three of Azpilicueta, Christensen, and Sarr. Hudson-Odoi, and Saul started as the wing backs while Reece James and Barkley started in midfield. Mount, Werner, and Lukaku started up front. The attack was more of the first choice while the defence and midfield was pretty make shift.
Chelsea got off to a brilliant start with Timo Werner scoring in the 2nd minute of the game with what was a tap in. Perfect start for the Blues and it looked like it would be a comfortable win. That confidence was short-lived though and as we have done in recent games we allowed the opposition to grow into the game and Zenit dominated us for much of the 1st half. Claudinho finally got the goal that Zenit deserved in the 38th minute while Azmoun scored in the 41st minute to give Zenit the lead at half time. Much frustration and much work for Chelsea to do in the 2nd half.
Zenit started the 2nd half well but Chelsea grew back into the game and we equalised in the 62nd minute after Barkley played through Werner who passed it into Lukaku’s path who finished to get the goal. Ziyech and Pulisic then came on for Barkley, and Hudson-Odoi as we looked for the win. Kepa then made some good saves and added to the two massive saves he made in the 1st half to keep Chelsea in the game. Havertz and Alonso then came on for Lukaku, and Saul. Timo Werner then put Chelsea into the lead in the 85th minute after some brilliant work by Pulisic. Werner made space for himself in the box and finished to add to his existing goal and assist. It looked like Chelsea were heading for 3 points but Ozdoyev who had come off the bench volleyed in a shot form outside the box in the 94th minute to get a point for Zenit.
Chelsea Team Review
Kepa conceded 3 goals but he also made 3-4 very good saves to keep Chelsea in the game. The final goal would probably have been saved by Mendy because it was the typical long distance goal that Kepa seems to always concede. Still it was a good personal performance but a tough day.
The defence was all over the place in this game and all three of Azpilicueta, Christensen, and Sarr looked suspicious. Sarr long term will not be at the club and Azpilicueta barely plays these days but the poor performance from Christensen was a bit shocking. Maybe the contract situation seems to be impacting him. Alonso did come on in the 2nd half and did look better than Saul although they both are just generally poor. The only silver lining is that these back three and wing backs are nor are regular ones. Reece James played in midfield and did well in this game showing once again his versatility.
Barkley started in the midfield and was frustrating but he did well for the equalising goal. Saul started at left wing back in this game but did not instil any confidence into the fans. It does look like Saul will be heading back home sooner rather than later. Mount was ok but nothing stellar. Havertz did come on in the 2nd half to play up top and the attack did become more fluid. Again the midfield was a makeshift one and the fact that Kante, Kovacic, and Jorginho were missing really shows the lack of depth at the moment.
Hudson-Odoi had a quite game as a wing back. Werner was the man of the match with Kepa. Two goals and an assist for the German is very good and hopefully we can see him go on a run now because we need these guys to continue to score. Lukaku grew into the game and while the goal he scored was a bit of fumble into the net the goal should help him gain confidence. Lukaku also did look more mobile in this game drifting out wide and dropping deep at times. The linkup with Mount and Werner also seems to be building. Ziyech came on in the 2nd half and looked good once again. Pulisic got an assist and also made an impact from the bench.
Tuchel was frustrated again and said post game that conceding 3 negates any good performance that people had. Tuchel knows that Chelsea cannot concede goals and what’s more frustrating is that they are more often than not due to individual mistakes. The midfield crisis is an issue as well while our depth doesn’t look as deep all of a sudden. The left wing back spot also looks like an issue. The only silver lining will be that the attack was better in this game.
Chelsea’s draw means that we finish 2nd in the group. That also means that we will face one of Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Ajax, or Lille. That will be decided on Monday and the games will be played in February but if we can get Lille that would be great for all Chelsea fans mental state. Next up is a visit by Leeds at Stamford Bridge on Saturday. COME ON CHELSEA!!!