Tuchel thrilled with goal for Lukaku on second Chelsea debut
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The Champions League is back this week, with holders Chelsea set to discover their opponents in the competition’s group stages. The draw will take place in Istanbul on Thursday, just 89 days after the Blues lifted the famous trophy in Porto after beating Manchester City.
Chelsea enjoyed a near-perfect start to life under Thomas Tuchel, finishing inside the Premier League’s top four and winning the Champions League following his arrival in January.
Kai Havertz’s goal in the 1-0 win over Man City in May has gone down in history and the Blues will be hoping to defend their title in 2021/22.
Chelsea are currently considered the fourth favourites for the competition, behind star-studded Paris Saint-Germain, Pep Guardiola’s Man City and German giants Bayern Munich.
That is all speculation, but one thing is certain: Tuchel’s side will not have an easy route to next year’s final in St Petersburg.
We won’t know who Chelsea face in the group stages until the draw takes place at 5pm on Thursday in Turkey, but we do know who they can – and can’t – face.
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Chelsea fans will be hoping Uefa’s official guests Branislav Ivanovic and Michael Essien will prove to be good luck charms.
Having won last season’s trophy, Chelsea will be in Pot 1 alongside the winners of the top six European leagues – Atletico Madrid (La Liga), Bayern Munich (Bundesliga), Man City (Premier League), Inter Milan (Serie A), Lille (Ligue 1) and Sporting Lisbon (Primera Liga) – and Europa League winner Villarreal.
The change in traditional dominance of Europe’s top leagues therefore means that there are some big names in Pot 2 – and Chelsea will face one of those sides.
Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus, Manchester United, PSG, Liverpool, Sevilla and Borussia Dortmund are the sides in Pot 2.
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The rules state that teams cannot face sides from the same country in the group stages, meaning a meeting with United or Liverpool is off the cards.
But that does mean Chelsea will face one of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus, PSG, Sevilla or Dortmund in the group stages.
Beyond those juicy-looking ties, Chelsea can face any of the remaining teams in Pots 3 and 4.
Not every side is confirmed yet, with the second legs of three qualifying ties taking place on Wednesday evening, but the majority of the Blues’ potential opponents are known.
Pot 3 currently has FC Porto, Ajax, RB Leipzig, Atalanta, Zenit St Petersburg and Benfica in it.
Pot 4 is Club Brugge, Young Boys, AC Milan, Malmo and Wolfsburg.
The remaining possibilities, for either pot, are Besiktas, Dynamo Kyiv, RB Salzburg or Brondby, Monaco or Shakhtar Donetsk and Dinamo Zagreb or Sheriff Tiraspol.
All of that means, for example, Chelsea could draw Real Madrid – winners of four of the last eight competitions – as well as 2017 Europa League finalists Ajax and Serie A heavyweights AC Milan.
Similarly, a group containing PSG – who have Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe – European regulars Porto and Belgian champions Club Brugge would be tough.
Those are the possibilities. Chelsea will find out their fate on Thursday evening.
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