Chelsea return to the Champions League after a year away when they face Valencia CF on Tuesday night, but Sky Sports pundit Phil Thompson expects the Stamford Bridge natives to fail in their efforts, as told to Sporting Life.
The former Liverpool defender, who won three European Cups during his time at Anfield (TransferMarkt), feels there are three key flaws in Frank Lampard’s side that will ultimately cost them in their quest for glory on the continent.
Chelsea regained their place among Europe’s elite with a third-place finish in the Premier League before beating Arsenal in the Europa League Final last season, but a transfer ban (BBC) meant the West London outfit could not improve those at Stamford Bridge this summer.
Thompson feels this has left deficiencies in attack and defence at Chelsea, with the Blues lacking the firepower and creativity needed to compete with the likes of Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski, Real Madrid’s Eden Hazard, FC Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Juventus’ Cristiano Ronaldo.
“They still have good players,” the Sky Sports pundit told Sporting Life ahead of Chelsea’s showdown with Valencia on Tuesday. “Whether they are going to be good enough offensively to score enough goals I am unsure.
“Chelsea are better than many clubs in Europe. Will they have enough firepower and creativity to go all the way? I don’t think so. There are vulnerabilities at the back for this team. It will be a difficult one, but Frank Lampard has known what he has had to work with, so he knows what to integrate into the team.
“Chelsea have not had the perfect start, but they performed extremely well against Liverpool in the Super Cup and the 4-0 defeat to Manchester United was not reflected in the scoreline, so it is not doom and gloom at Stamford Bridge.”
While Thompson has suggested Chelsea lack the firepower needed to succeed in Europe, the Blues currently hold the Premier League’s most lethal striker in Tammy Abraham, whose hat-trick at Wolves on Saturday moved him level with Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero on seven top-flight goals for the term so far.
The Blues have also fashioned the fourth-most efforts on goal in the English top-flight so far this season with 83, suggesting the creativity woes are not as bad as they may seem.
The same can be said for Chelsea’s alleged defensive fragility, with Lampard’s men averaging 9.6 shots faced per game, according to WhoScored data, which ranks them as the fourth-best defensive unit behind only Manchester City, Everton and Leicester.
That said, Chelsea will not be able to rely solely on Abraham to score their goals if they are to challenge on multiple fronts, and will need the experienced likes of Willian to offer more than three shots in four games, none of which were on target.
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