Chelsea kicks off its UEFA Champions League defense on Tuesday, welcoming Zenit St. Petersburg to Stamford Bridge in what will officially make the Blues the team to beat in the whole competition. Chelsea had the best offensive and defensive underlying numbers of the 2020/21 Champions League campaign. The Blues virtually have all players available to them, so who does Thomas Tuchel select to begin his side’s Champions League defense?
Edouard Mendy (No. 16) Goalkeeper, Senegal
Edouard Mendy had an excellent Champions League campaign last season. He faced 33 shots, saved 30 of them and kept a Champions League record nine clean sheets while at it. He was the best goalkeeper in Europe last season, especially when you take his league season into consideration. Last season was also the Senegalese’s first season in the Champions League. Can he break his own clean sheet record this time around?
Cesar Azpilicueta (No. 28) Right centerback, Spain
Cesar Azpilicueta started the Aston Villa game from the bench in order to get him some rest. The captain has made the most appearances and played the most minutes since Tuchel arrived. This says a lot about how well Azpilicueta has played, as well as how highly the German manager rates the Spaniard. Azpilicueta continues to set the standard for performances when he plays. He is on his way to being one of the most decorated captains in the club’s history.
Andreas Christensen (No. 4) Centerback, Denmark
Andreas Christensen has been superb under Tuchel so far, keeping 10 clean sheets in 16 starts under the German gaffer. He has often being a victim of preference, as Tuchel seemed to prefer Thiago Silva to him several times last season. Nevertheless, he seems to be the preferred starter in the centerback role for Chelsea this season, which is completely understandable.
Antonio Rudiger (No. 2) Left centerback, Germany
Antonio Rudiger is definitely Tuchel’s first choice at the left centerback spot. He was made for that role. His drive into midfield when in possession and his ability to step out of the defensive line to break up play before it becomes a goal threat, is second to none in the team. His speed and strength allow him to occupy the wide areas of the defensive third comfortably. Rudiger’s height also means he can handle switches of play directed to his flank.