Blues target first home win in Europe

Make Lille the first victims this term and they are in last 16, Reds need a point to advance

LONDON • Chelsea manager Frank Lampard has promised a sharp improvement from his players when they host Lille in the Champions League today.

The Blues, who are in poor form, are third in Group H on eight points, level with Valencia who travel to leaders Ajax (10). Lille are bottom with just a point.

Chelsea, who have just one victory in their last five games in all competitions, need a win to confirm a spot in the last 16.

But they have not won at home in Europe's elite club competition this season, losing 0-1 to Valencia and drawing 4-4 with Ajax.

"I am aware of that. I think it would be a good achievement (to finally win at home)," Lampard said yesterday. "It is a tough group, we have had some difficulties.

"But it is a big game today, it is essentially a knockout game. We have to keep fighting.

"I like that this is a knockout, we are going to be at our best."

The 41-year-old acknowledged the dip in results: "It was always going to come, it was never going to be plain sailing, so this is a test."

If the London side are to advance, Tammy Abraham, who scored his first Champions League goal in the 2-1 win at Lille in October, could play a key role.

The striker is the focal point of their attack with his powerful presence and predatory instincts.

His importance was clear over the last two weeks.

When he was sidelined with a hip injury against West Ham on Nov 30, Chelsea looked impotent as they slumped to a 1-0 loss.

But just days later, he was back in the starting line-up and produced a goal and an assist in the 2-1 win against Aston Villa.

The 22-year-old, a product of Chelsea's youth academy, has 11 Premier League goals and 12 in all competitions this term.

But, as Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta points out, it is not just goals that make him so vital.

"Not only is he scoring goals, he is playing for the team, recovering the ball," said the defender.

Lampard, who blamed defensive errors for the 3-1 loss at Everton on Saturday, will be boosted by the return of defender Antonio Rudiger from long-term injury.

In Group E, Liverpool travel to Salzburg needing to avoid defeat to progress to the knockout phase.

The Reds lead with 10 points, one ahead of Napoli and three more than Austrian side Salzburg.

Jurgen Klopp's men recorded a first clean sheet in 14 games in Saturday's 3-0 win at Bournemouth.

"Obviously everybody was desperate (for the shutout)," the Reds manager said. "The next game, where a clean sheet would be useful, is against Salzburg."



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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 10, 2019, with the headline 'Blues target first home win in Europe'. Subscribe