Chelsea Football Club will embark on a new journey in the knockout stages of the Champions League as they gear up to face Borussia Dortmund in a two-legged fixture.
The first leg of the round-of-16 tie is scheduled to be held in Germany on the 15th of February, followed by the return fixture in West London on the 7th of March.
The Blues are entering the knockout stages with a few changes to their roster as three new faces have been added to their squad for the later stages of the competition.
Manager Graham Potter had to make some tough decisions when it came to trimming down the squad, with a number of players left out to make room for the newcomers.
One such player who was left out was Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who had joined Chelsea from Barcelona last September on a two-year deal.
Despite being a high-profile addition to the team, Aubameyang has only managed to score one goal in 11 Premier League appearances. Despite his exclusion, Potter insisted that Aubameyang still has a role to play at Stamford Bridge and that he will be fighting for his place in the team.
Chelsea’s January transfer spending spree has resulted in three new faces joining the team, Mykhailo Mudryk, Enzo Fernandez, and Joao Felix, who have all been added to the Champions League squad.
However, Champions League rules dictate that clubs can only add three players to their squad for the knockout rounds that were not part of their initial list from September.
Chelsea had registered a 24-man squad for the group stages of the Champions League.
With Jorginho leaving for Arsenal, that left 23 spaces — meaning another player had to be omitted in order for Chelsea to register the full allocation of three new players.
As a result, players like David Datro Fofana, Noni Madueke, Andrey Santos, Gabriel Slonina, and Benoit Badiashile had to be left out of the 25-man European squad.
The rules have changed since the 2018-19 season in the Champions League, and there is no longer a ‘cup-tied’ rule, meaning that Mudryk (Shakhtar), Fernandez (Benfica), and Felix (Atletico) were all eligible to be registered despite appearing in the group stages for other teams.
However, for players like Madueke, Badiashile, Santos, Fofana, and Slonina, who are aged 21 or younger, UEFA rules state that they have to have been at the club for at least two years to be eligible for this exemption.
Potter acknowledged the difficulty of the situation when speaking about the decision, stating that there would be some awkward conversations with the players who were left out.
Potter said: “We have a bit of time before we make the decision, we are aware of who we need to speak to.”
“There are going to be a few awkward conversations, that’s the reality of where we are because only 11 can play, only a certain amount of players can be in the squad, there are always going to be ones who are disappointed and it’s about being honest and open, respectful, transparent as you can. “
“And again create an environment where you respect the fact people want to play, players want to compete and help the team. But also that they’re patient and make sure they’re ready to play.”
He emphasised the importance of being honest and transparent with the players and creating an environment where everyone feels respected and valued, regardless of whether they are playing or not.”
In conclusion, Chelsea is ready to face the challenges ahead as they strive to make it deep into the Champions League competition.
With the arrival of three new players and the exclusion of others, the team is hoping to make a statement and emerge as one of the top contenders in the competition.