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Chelsea’s Champions League chances facing double Milan test

Graham Potter will be looking over his shoulder, wondering why his new Chelsea team failed to perform well enough to defeat Salzburg in the Champions League on Wednesday night.

And the new Blues manager will be thinking about his team selection for the next game, which isn’t until October 1st, when they travel to Crystal Palace.

The home game against Liverpool on Sunday has been postponed, with policing issues surrounding the Queen’s funeral cited as a contributing factor. Then there will be a break for international matches.

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Potter, regarded as a footballing visionary in some circles after guiding Brighton to the upper echelons of the Premier League, will quickly realise that managing this squad will be unlike anything he has ever experienced.

Most observers were perplexed by the decision to keep around £100 million in central defensive talent on the bench while going with a makeshift center-back in Cesar Azpilicueta to partner veteran Brazil skipper Thiago Silva, 37.

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When the Austrians equalised Raheem Sterling’s early second-half goal with 15 minutes remaining, the decision seemed even more perplexing.

On 21 minutes, sacked coach Thomas Tuchel was given a rendition of his song by the fans, a reference to 2021, when he won the Champions League for the boys in SW6, and that must have hurt co-owner Todd Boehly, who wielded the sword that cut down the popular German.

On such occasions, Skipper Azpilicueta is the go-to man, and he was understandably disappointed with the outcome.

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“After losing the first game [against Dinamo Zagreb], we were in a tough position, and now it is a bit worse,” said the Spain defender, who appeared to be on his way to joining Barcelona in the summer.

“But it is still in our hands and now we work hard, and with a change of manager of course, we try to adapt as quickly as possible to get ideas and to affect them on the pitch.”

Chelsea are bottom of their group after two matches and have back-to-back matches against leaders AC Milan to contend with if they are to advance to the knockout stage.

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Azpilicueta said: “We play two games in a row against Milan and we have to be at our best level if we want to get the results and to go into the next stage.”

Of the Salzburg game he said: “ We scored but then we conceded a goal that was disappointing because when you are not effective in both boxes you get punished at this level in the Champions League,

“Raheem is an amazing player when playing wide and creating one-against-one chances and it was an amazing goal.

“We tried to build from the back, get the spaces, get the midfield players into positions and for a moment we had good control of the game, for others not that good, but that is where we are and we have to analyse and be humble.”

“We are quite flexible in terms of system and position of players. That is the way the manager believed that we could hurt them and be stronger as a team and we will work on that.

“Of course we are disappointed with the result but there are a lot of positives to take. We will keep working hard now we have an international break and we then have a run coming with a lot of games every three days, and we have to be ready for it.

“The manager has made very clear what he wants from the players individually and as a team and we have to keep working. We know that we can do better, we have a big room for improvement, we need to keep sticking together and working hard and hopefully the results will arrive.”

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