?More impressionable Chelsea supporters would have been genuinely optimistic that the Blues stood a chance of progression against Bayern Munich before roughly 9.05pm on Tuesday night, but the lack of a spine of key players contributed to their European downfall.
The media narrative in the buildup to the last 16 first leg at Stamford Bridge would lead you to believe that Chelsea were somewhere near the level of their Bavarian guests – that while the home side were underdogs it could be a tight affair, a rematch of the 2012 Champions League final.
Sky’s Charlie Nicholas ?declared before the match: “
Lampard was one of the few to acknowledge ?Chelsea’s obvious underdog status before the match, admitting it was likely that his side would have to suffer for long periods over the 180+ minutes against the Bundesliga side.
Well…I guess he was right…although probably more right than he would have liked. Chelsea were underdogs to a ravenous beast that eventually tore them to shreds. Riding their luck
#CFC haven’t won a knock-out game in the Champions League game since 2014. Just a sign that the drop in quality isn’t a sudden thing.
— Simon Johnson (@SJohnsonSport) February 25, 2020
Then we must consider Chelsea’s European stature. They infamously defeated ?Bayern in their own back yard in their penultimate competitive meeting (barring the UEFA Super Cup). But, lads, that was eight (yes EIGHT) long years ago now. Despite domestic and Europa League success in the years since, their form in the Champions League has spiralled.
The west Londoners haven’t won a Champions League knockout match since beating Paris Saint-Germain in 2014 – a damning statistic that speaks volumes of the Blues’ downward trajectory since regularly reaching the semi-finals of the competition in the noughties and early 2010s.
How they miss the core of immovable stalwarts that littered the lineup throughout that period; Petr Cech, John Terry, Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba. The closest thing Stamford Bridge has seen since was the double title-winning spine of Petr Cech/Thibaut Courtois, Gary Cahill, N’Golo Kanté, Cesc Fabregas, ?Eden Hazard and Diego Costa, although they were members of sides that faltered in Europe.
Then, with his side already two goals down on home soil, Andreas Christensen sold himself to the pace of Davies with a ridiculous lunge, allowing the electric Canadian to streak clear and provide a simple assist for Robert Lewandowski.
Marcos Alonso’s red card for a blatant swipe at the Pole compounded Chelsea’s misery and once again reflected a lack of level-headedness and leadership from the club’s most experienced players.
Elsewhere, Ross Barkley demonstrated that he perhaps does not have the footballing brain for the elite level, while Olivier Giroud’s hold-up play was nowhere near the standard required given the opposition.
In truth, Chelsea are still in the midst of a period of transition that began after the 2017 title win and the departure of Diego Costa. It is a phase that has been hampered by an enforced embargo on transfer activity last summer and ?a disappointing lack of transfer activity in January.
The early signing of Hakim Ziyech is a step in the right direction, but the Blues have a hell of a way to go to being restored back to Europe’s top table and standing any chance of challenging for the Champions League once again.
Lampard was, well, frank in his own assessment, saying as much post-match, via ?Sky:
“We have to take it on the chin and look at yourself and no one else, and the levels we need to attain at this club, which this club has attained in the past and we have to work to get back there.”
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