Chelsea will be up against Red Bull Salzburg in the Group E encounter of the UEFA Champions League 2022/23 at the Stamford Bridge in London on Wednesday night. New manager Graham Potter who has been appointed in the wake of Thomas Tuchel’s sacking as head coach will be taking over the reins of the club for the first time. Salzburg, meanwhile, secured a respectable 1-1 draw with AC Milan in their Champions League opening fixture.
To say that the last week has been quite tumultuous and eventful and not in the positive sense for Chelsea would be an understatement. Following the team’s opening matchday defeat to Dinamo Zagreb in the Champions League, tensions rose across the board room and as a result, manager Thomas Tuchel, who led them to the title in 2021, had to face the axe.
Shocked and dismayed by the decision, Chelsea fans then found out that former Brighton and Hove manager Graham Potter who is reputed to be among the best in England has now been appointed as the new manager of the club on a five-year deal a little more than 24 hours later.
Tuchel, who won the Champions League in his very first season in charge of the Blues before suffering consecutive domestic cup final losses on penalties to Liverpool last season, will always be appreciated by the Chelsea fanbase as the manager who steered the club through a difficult period and kept their dreams afloat.
However, new owner Todd Boehly seems to be as ruthless and trigger-happy as his predecessor and reports around London suggest that not all was too well between their relationship. He probably felt the team’s stuttering form in the early part of this campaign was a sign of a malaise which may have proven difficult to overcome under the German’s management.
The timing of the decision, however, hardly makes sense given that Chelsea just splashed around £250m on several ambitious signings according to Tuchel’s plans during the summer transfer window. All eyes will be on Graham Potter now who has constantly punched above his weight with Brighton and Hove Albion and made the Seagulls one of the most attractive football sides in the English top flight. This will be Potter’s first job at a club as big as Chelsea and he will be hoping to impress as quickly as possible.
The 47-year-old had guided the Seagulls to their highest ever ninth finish in the Premier League table last season. He also began this season on a pretty strong note which saw Brighton claiming 13 points from their six matches. That is a better return than the 10 points that Chelsea have been able to fetch after the same number of matches in which they have won three, drawn once and lost twice.
When Red Bull Salzburg come to London on Wednesday night, it will be Potter’s first ever appearance in the dugout for a Champions League fixture which suggests how quickly he needs to adapt to the step up in class and management at an unfamiliar environment. The talented English manager might be tempted into resorting to a 4-3-3 formation with reports suggesting that Boehly had tried and failed to convince Tuchel to return to that system.
Potter, on his part, has found plenty of success with a back three formation during his time with Brighton and it will be interesting to see whether he does end up making the switch given that it is also a system that Chelsea players are comfortable and familiar with.
An aspect which could end up working in his favour is the fact that both Chelsea and Brighton share a certain weakness: the lack of an out-and-out goal-scorer. It remains to be seen which individual Potter generally favours in a central role; with the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Kai Havertz, Raheem Sterling and Armando Broja to select from, he is clearly not lacking options.
Red Bull Salzburg, meanwhile, are competing in the group stages of the Champions League for the fourth consecutive term and having reached the knockout stages of the continental competition for the first time last season.
Although they were humbled 8-2 on aggregate by Bayern Munich in the Round of 16 stage, it was a learning curve for Salzburg who have decided to stick with manager Matthias Jaissle. The 34-year-old will also be trying to help Salzburg lift a 10th consecutive Austrian Bundesliga title by the end of the current campaign.
Jaissle and his players will be cognizant of how Chelsea’s last week has been surrounded by turmoil and chaos. Sensing their vulnerability as well as Potter’s relative inexperience at the biggest stages of European football, Salzburg will be fancying their chances of securing a positive result at the Stamford Bridge.
They have won seven of their opening eight domestic games so far. Even in the opening Champions League matchday, they earned a more than respectable 1-1 draw with Italian champions AC Milan last week. A proponent of intensity and pressing, Jaissle drilled his side into achieving exactly that against the Milanese giants with Noah Okafor rewarding his team’s pressure with a 28th-minute opener.
However, Salzburg failed to sustain that pressure over the course of both the halves and grew tired towards the closing stages of each half. Alexis Saelemaekers made the most of it and pulled one back for the Scudetto holders with a calm finish from 10 yards five minutes before half-time. In the end, a stalemate was probably a fair outcome given how the match played out. The Austrian champions will be looking to build on that momentum when they arrive to the Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.
CHE vs RBS, UEFA Champions League 2022/23
Date: 15th September, 2022
Time: 12:30 AM IST
Venue: Stamford Bridge, London
Chelsea Champions League form:
Chelsea form (all competitions):
Red Bull Salzburg Champions League form:
Red Bull Salzburg form (all competitions):
Chelsea wins: 0
Red Bull Salzburg wins: 0
Chelsea Team News:
Chelsea continue to miss the services of their head of the engine room in midfield N’Golo Kante whose hamstring injury is expected to keep him out of action until the international break.
This will be the Blues’ only fixture before the international break given that their Sunday’s Premier League clash against Liverpool was postponed due to policing being required for the Queen’s funeral on Monday, Potter has the luxury of going all out with what he thinks is the strongest XI on his managerial debut for Chelsea.
For his first match in charge, he is likely to stick to a three-man backline with Reece James patrolling the right wing-back role while Ben Chilwell and new summer signing Marc Cucurella compete for the opposite flank. Cucurella has the experience of working with Potter during their successful time together at Brighton last season and he may win the duel over Chilwell because of this familiarity.
As far as the midfield is concerned, Jorginho is likely to be partnered by Mateo Kovacic while Mason Mount, Raheem Sterling, and Kai Havertz taking up places up front to form a fluid front three. Pierre Emerick Aubameyang may have to come off from the bench in the second half for Chelsea.
Red Bull Salzburg Team News:
Red Bull Salzburg, on the other hand, are suffering from a host of injury issues and problems. Maximilian Wober, Oumar Solet, Kamil Piatkowski, Bryan Okoh, Mamady Diambou, Ousmane Diakite, Samson Tijani, Luka Sucic, Justin Omoregie and Sekou Koita are all in the treatment room due to various reasons and are expected to miss the flight to London.
This leaves Strahinja Pavlovic as the club’s only fit senior centre-back, which implies that either Andreas Ulmer or former Brighton man Bernardo may have to slot in alongside Pavlovic despite both being natural left-backs. It will be interesting to see how Jaissle handles this particular problem.
Meanwhile, teenage sensation Benjamin Sesko only featured from the bench against Milan after recently suffering a knock himself, but he should be medically cleared to start here having opened the scoring away to Ried at the weekend.
Chelsea possible starting lineup:
Mendy; Fofana, Silva, Koulibaly; James, Jorginho, Kovacic, Cucurella; Mount, Havertz, Sterling
Red Bull Salzburg possible starting lineup:
Kohn; Dedic, Pavlovic, Ulmer, Bernardo; Capaldo, Seiwald, Kjaergaard; Kameri; Sesko, Okafor
It goes without saying that Chelsea players will be hugely motivated to do well and impress new boss Graham Potter who has also received extra time off with his players given the developments in England. With that being said, there’s also a sense of uncertainty and unease at Chelsea after how last week unfolded and following the loss to Dinamo Zagreb. RB Salzburg, on their part, may be missing a host of players due to injuries, but have been in flying form in the league and also held AC Milan to a draw. Therefore, another draw could be likely on the cards here.