Thomas Tuchel wants Chelsea to be the team everyone wants to avoid in the Champions League quarter-final draw after the holders beat Lille 4-1 on aggregate at a raucous Stade Pierre-Mauroy.
The Blues took a 2-0 first-leg lead to France, but in a match played amid ongoing uncertainty about the club’s future, they had to battle back from a sluggish start to win the return.
Burak Yilmaz scored a penalty when Jorginho handled the ball, only for Christian Pulisic to equalize in first-half injury time.
With 19 minutes remaining, Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta scored at the back post to put the match out of reach for the French champions.
The draw on Friday will reveal Tuchel’s team’s last-eight opponents.
“I want us to be the squad that no one wants to play against,” Thomas Tuchel stated. “In this last round of eight, we envision ourselves playing that role.
“It’s a big step to do it again and again, which is why we’re fighting for top-four spots in perhaps the toughest league on the planet, and now we’re fighting for a spot in the top eight clubs [in Europe].
“This brings out our best qualities.”
Despite the club’s difficulties, the Blues prevail
Lille harried and pressured the Blues with desire, but the Premier League side was able to keep control and display their skill when needed.
During the game, it was disclosed that Lord Coe has joined a consortium formed by ex-Liverpool chairman Sir Martin Broughton to buy the club, and that former Chelsea striker Gianluca Vialli is working with Nick Candy on his offer.
The Ricketts family, who own the Chicago Cubs of Major League Baseball, indicated earlier this week that they are leading a group of investors who will make an offer by Friday’s deadline.
Whether those off-field issues were a distraction or not, Lille deservedly took the lead in the 38th minute after a strong start in which they made Chelsea’s life difficult.
Yilmaz scored a penalty when Jorginho handled the ball, with referee Davide Massa awarded the decision after being instructed by the video assistant referee to inspect the pitchside monitor.
Chelsea, to their credit, reacted fast, and Jorginho made amends with a lovely ball into Pulisic, who finished from a tight angle to put an end to Lille’s renewed optimism.
In the second half, Xeka hit the post for the hosts, but the tie was over when Azpilicueta guided Mason Mount’s whipped ball in with his knee.
Chelsea will now wait to see what happens off the field, with Uefa requesting clarity from the European Union on future Champions League matches involving the Blues following the imposition of sanctions on Russian owner Roman Abramovich on Wednesday.
The UK government has frozen Abramovich’s assets, and Chelsea has had to get a special license to continue operating. Abramovich is thought to have close relations to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Spending restrictions have resulted as a result of the sanctions, yet the club’s players and personnel were permitted to travel to Lille for the game because such preparations had already been made prior to the sanctions.
Meanwhile, the Three logo was visible on Chelsea’s new yellow kit during the match, despite the company’s request that the club finds a way to remove it.
While it wasn’t a particularly impressive showing, Thomas Tuchel will be delighted that his team maintained their focus and that they still have a chance to add to last season’s Champions League success.