8 mins: Now another Lille player is down clutching his face. This time it’s Araujo, who to be fair was inadvertently caught by Rudiger’s frailing fingers.
7 mins: Kante and Tiago Djaló battle near the left corner flag. Eventually the ball goes out for a Chelsea corner, and the Lille player throws himself to the ground and rolls about for a while with his hands clutching his head as if he’s been assaulted. It really is a completely ludicrous display, ignored by the referee.
5 mins: Chelsea push forward, but Pied eventually snaffles the ball from Willian and the move is over without the Lille area being threatened.
3 mins: Little to report, except that Yaziki just tried a flying waist-high backheel volley. He did not succeed.
Cesar Azpilicueta is hanging about with the match officials, waiting for a Lille captain to turn up for the coin toss. The visitors are busy posing for team photos.
Out come the players! There was precious little preamble about that. No lingering footage of footballers gathering in a tunnel.
Meanwhile in Salzburg, Liverpool have won 2-0 and thus top Group E, ahead of Napoli (who thumped Genk 4-0).
Frank Lampard has a chat.
On nights like this we need to worry about how we approach the game. Everyone can see how much we want to win it. We want to get into the next stage of the Champions League, it’s the ultimate club competition, and we’ve worked hard to get into this position with it in our own hands. But it’s not the time to settle and think it’s just going to happen for us tonight. We have to work hard and earn it.
These are the nights that will define you, individually and collectively. We have to understand that, because no matter what this is going to be a tough match. The idea that Lille come here with not much on it is dangerous as much as it’s good for us. So it comes back to ourselves. Can we show our fans how much we want to get through?
I’m a bit sad not to be seeing Victor Osimhen, Lille’s 20-year-old striking sensation, scorer of their goal in the 2-1 defeat to Chelsea in France back in October and of two goals (and an assist) in his last three domestic fixtures. Kurt Zouma, on the other hand, is probably OK with it.
It’s a vicious evening in London: wild, wet and windy, if not particularly cold. The conditions are the first opponents Chelsea will need to beat.
The team sheets have been handed in, and tonight’s protagonists will be as follows:
Chelsea: Arrizabalaga, Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Zouma, Emerson Palmieri, Kante, Jorginho, Kovacic, Willian, Abraham, Pulisic. Subs: Christensen, Barkley, Caballero, Mount, Hudson-Odoi, Batshuayi, James.
Lille: Maignan, Celik, Gabriel, Djalo, Pied, Soumare, Thiago Maia, Yazici, Xeka, Luiz Araujo, Remy. Subs: Leo, Fonte, Osimhen, Ikone, Bamba, Sanches, Bradaric.
Referee: Tasos Sidiropoulos (Greece).
I’m sure this news has gone down well in the Chelsea dressing-room: by my count Lille make seven changes to the team that beat Brest 1-0 last Friday,
Chelsea go into their last game in Group H in third place, and knowing that only a win will guarantee progress. Inevitably, it’s not necessarily so simple: the Blues are level on points and indeed goal difference with Valencia, but having lost at home to the Spanish side and drawn away will remain behind them on head-to-head record should they finish on the same number of points. So if Ajax win at home to Los Ches, a draw or better will do just fine for Chelsea; if the Dutch side draw then Chelsea would win the group (having a superior head-to-head record against Ajax) if they win; and if Valencia claim an away victory Chelsea would need victory in order to come second.
“We just want to win it to go through,” says Kurt Zouma. ‘It’s like a final for us, a must-win match. The results from the games before we didn’t keep a clean sheet but we have been playing well. In the game against Ajax away, we played good. The game against them at home was crazy but we came back so we showed great character. Tomorrow is a different story – if we win, we go through and that’s what we want.”
The good news is that Lille are out of contention, having only one point to their name, and are really far more concerned with Friday’s home game against Montpellier. Christophe Galtier was keeping his cards close to his chest in his press conference yesterday, insisting that his players “have to be flawless in how they engage and what they give for this game, because this competition deserves the utmost respect”, but rumour has it that significant team changes are afoot.
Welcome. Hang up your coats, find yourself a pew and sit tight – team news is coming just as soon as I get it.