There has been no shortage of drama, of points squandered at Stamford Bridge and that late win in Amsterdam in October, although in the end a place in the Champions League knockout stages in spring is another step forward for the Frank Lampard regime at Chelsea.
The next time they play under the lights in Europe there may be some new names on the blue shirts but for now this new-look team including home-grown former academy boys playing their first season in Europe can take satisfaction in navigating a potentially tricky group. It was last season’s Champions League semi-finalists Ajax who paid the price in the end, beaten by Valencia and consigned to a place in the Europa League knockout next February.
This should have been rather more comfortable than it was for Lampard in the closing stages when Loic Remy, that former Chelsea striker, scored late in the game to reignite a match in which Lampard’s players had been cruising for much of the second half. They had not reckoned upon a late surge from Lille who had latterly raised the stakes with the second half introduction of midfielder Jonathan Bamba, one of many who had been rested for the game.
It caused a mild alarm for the home crowd in a match that had looked like it was over after goals from Tammy Abraham and then the captain Cesar Azpilicueta in a largely dominant first half Chelsea performance. Only victory would ensure Chelsea a place in the closing stages and by the time that Lampard started to make changes in the closing stages before the Remy goal it did look like they had it in the bag. There is still a rawness about this Chelsea side that can catch up with them at times.
This was their first win at Stamford Bridge in three group games that included defeat to Valencia on the first matchday and then a 4-4 draw with Ajax early last month that was long on entertainment but a little too volatile for Lampard’s liking. The general fearlessness of this team will suit the knockout stages of the competition although they have already learned much about the art of seeing out a game.
For the first time since August, there was a lead for Chelsea to defend at Stamford Bridge at half-time – and this time there would be no excuses if they were to throw it away. The opposition had come to London to conserve energy for their domestic programme and save face. Lille have put their league form back on track with three straight wins. Already out of contention for the knockout stages of the Champions League and the Europa League there were seven changes from the team that featured in their most recent victory against Brest on Friday.
As a consequence his was a much less experienced Lille team, without their Nigerian striker Victor Osimhen, France international Jonathan Ikone or the Portuguese internationals Jose Fonte and Renato Sanches. There was much riding on this game for Chelsea to ensure their route into the knockout stages of the competition but nothing on it at all for the French side and it showed in their first half performance.
Lille coach Christophe Galtier did select centre-forward Loic Remy, now 32, who spent three years as a Chelsea player in name at least. He was a late idea for Chelsea in the summer transfer window of August 2014 and is now a second choice at Lille in the dusk of his career. He cut a lonely figure in attack with the rest of Lille’s formation behind the ball. The midfielder Boubakary Soumare, a 20-year-old France junior international at every level is one of those who may yet take a well-worn path from Lille to the Premier League but this was a challenging night for the away side.
Chelsea dominated possession and scored in the 19th minute, a well-worked move that culminated with Christian Pulisic setting Willian free on the right. In the area Tammy Abraham found the space and the angle to give Willian a target and then the English striker turned the cross in. It settled his team down and after two home Champions League games in which they had lost control, this was much better from Frank Lampard’s players. Antonio Rudiger was back in the centre of defence, returning from injury after four months out, alongside Kurt Zouma.
The second goal was a header from Cesar Azpilicueta direct from the corner of Emerson, struck left-footed from the right flank. More importantly for Lampard, Lille had not managed a single attempt on the home goal all half.
The introduction of Bamba made a big difference to Lille, who had some bright skilful players if a little lacking in the ability to turn those flashes of inspiration into something meaningful. Bamba finished the game in an attacking position and Sanches also came off the bench in the late stages. Lampard was pacing the technical area with some concern as Remy had a late run down the left flank. His shot on his right foot was weak.
The Lille goal had been made by Bamba who got in down the left wing and cut the ball back to Remy who finished cleanly. By then Michy Batshuayi had come on for Abraham and Callum Hudson-Odoi for Pulisic. Lampard wanted his players to keep possession and see the game out although the later stages became a battle between the teams to get the next goal. It took N’Golo Kante and Willian in the later stages of time added on to keep the ball and run the clock down.
It is Valencia who go through as winners of Group H, and once again there will be much for Chelsea to learn from this - mostly how they ended up clinging on to the victory. They have made a few mistakes in this competition and survived but there will be no room for error once the knockout starts.
Chelsea made it difficult for themselves
The game should have been over by the hour mark. Chelsea failed to put away chances, took their foot of the gas at 2-0 and Lille somehow came back into the game with a late goal. That could have cost Chelsea with the Ajax-Valencia result not going the way they wanted.
Chelsea are through - but Lampard's young side did it the hard way in the end.
The former Chelsea man put real pressure on the home side with his goal
7 - Loic Remy is the seventh different player to score a Champions League goal at Stamford Bridge both for and against Chelsea, after Samuel Eto'o, Diego Costa, Fernando Torres, David Luiz, Michael Ballack and Willian. Haunt. #CHELOSC#UCL
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 10, 2019
Valencia are through with Chelsea
Valencia beat Ajax 1-0 away from home. Ajax are out after a superb run in the competition last season.
And Chelsea have done it! They hold on to secure progress to the next round. Chelsea dominated for most of the game but a Loic Remy goal turned the game on its head. Relief at Stamford Bridge.
90+5 min: Chelsea 2 Lille 1
Kante breaks into the box but decides to maintain possession. It will be a Chelsea throw in right by the corner flag. Some solid time wasting going on from the home side here - and to think they could have scored another three or so goals this match.
90+4 min: Chelsea 2 Lille 1
Hudson-Odoi drives forward but his shot ends up in Lille hands. They win a free kick.
Chelsea regain possession and Hudson-Odoi goes for glory, sending the ball into the stands. He should have taken the ball to the corner.
90+2 min: Chelsea 2 Lille 1
Chance for Lille! Remy is left in acres of space, he runs into the box but drives the ball straight at the keeper. He could have squared it, or just done better himself. That was the chance for Lille! Very lucky for Chelsea.
90 min: Chelsea 2 Lille 1
Mount is unleashed down the left and he wins his side a corner. He is taking his time over it before delivering an inviting ball. Lille win possession after a tussle and drive up the field.
They halt on half-way, before sending an aimless long ball forward.
Five minutes of added time! Lampard looks disgusted at that amount of time...
87 min: Chelsea 2 Lille 1
Azpilicueta cuts the ball back but there is no Chelsea player there to meet it. Sanches clears for Lille.
Willian carries the ball back for Chelsea - he finds Batshuayi who hits the ball right at the defender. The ball then comes to the Belgian again but he sends it over the bar. He could have killed the game a couple of times since he came on.
85 min: Chelsea 2 Lille 1
Lille drive into the Chelsea half once again before Jorginho wins back possession. Batshuayi gets the ball in acres of space on the edge of Lille's bpx but his indecision allows a challenge to be made.
The ball runs to Willian who wins a throw in.
83 min: Chelsea 2 Lille 1
Lille regain possession and attack down the right through Sanches. However, he slips and Chelsea have the throw-in. The home side need to control possession here.
Azpilicueta bombs on and wins a throw in for his side deep in Lille's half. Can Chelsea kill the game?
Willian wins his side another throw.
81 min: Chelsea 2 Lille 1
Renato Sanches is on for Araujo. They are not bringing on their top goal scorer Osimhen.
Mount is on for Kovacic.
80 min: Chelsea 2 Lille 1
Lille are on the attack, playing with intent! This has come from nowhere. Lille could knock Chelsea out here!
Lampard needs to get his team sorted quickly!
GOOOOOAAAAL! Remy Chelsea 2 Lille 1
Remy lays the ball to Bamba who finds him in return on the edge of the six-yard box. Remy then hammers the ball into the roof of the net. What a strike! Game on!
77 min: Chelsea 2 Lille 0
Soumare plays a lovely one-two, bursting into the Chelsea half. He is a classy central midfielder.
75 min: Chelsea 2 Lille 0
Araujo makes a strong run forward but Rudiger gets back making an excellent sliding challenge. Very confident defending from the German international.
Hudson-Odoi then unleashes a shot, knocking the Lille defender to the floor. Power.
73 min: Chelsea 2 Lille 0
Kante pinches the ball on the half-way line and unleashes Willian. The ball then comes to Kovacic who shoots straight at the new keeper. A nice way to enter the game for Jardim.
71 min: Chelsea 2 Lille 0
The Lille goalkeeper Maignan is coming off to be replaced by Jardim - his debut for Lille. The keeper never recovered from the first half challenge from Zouma.
Goal scorer Abraham is also off, he is replaced by Batshuayi.
69 min: Chelsea 2 Lille 0
The ball swaps between the two sides as neither can establish possession. The fizz has gone out of this game for the moment. Chelsea are happy with their lead, Lille are happy not to concede anymore goals.
67 min: Chelsea 2 Lille 0
The corner once again does not beat the first man. Sums up Lille's performance really.
Chelsea force Lille back to the keeper who clears the ball long. Zouma returns the ball and is taken out by Xeka who is yellow carded for that shoulder charge.
65 min: Chelsea 2 Lille 0
Lille have started to maintain some possession. Some nice interplay on the edge of the Chelsea box leads to a Lille corner. A goal here would make it interesting...
Bamba is on for Maia in Lille's first change.
62 min: Chelsea 2 Lille 0
Lille win a corner - which is celebrated wildly by the travelling fans. The ball in is awful and is hooked away. Shame.
Chelsea regain control and the ball rolls through to Abraham who falls over as he tries to shoot.
Pulisic is coming off and on comes Hudson-Odoi. Pulisic has been brilliant tonight and this match is a prime opportunity for the young England star to shine off the bench.
Super Frank is keeping warm
58 min: Chelsea 2 Lille 0
Lille finally get a chance to attack, a ball is fired in from the right hand side but there is no-one in the box to meet it.
This game looks so comfortable Lampard might be thinking about taking off some of his big guns. He will not want to risk Rudiger getting injured after a strong showing tonight.
Chelsea have another chance to score but the captain cannot add a third. Another corner which is dealt with in turn by Lille.
55 min: Chelsea 2 Lille 0
Kante has really got forward a lot tonight and he bombs down the right again, winning a corner.
Willian puts too much on the corner and it trickles out of the box without being touched by a player from either side.
Pulisic then bursts forward winning a corner, but again it comes to nothing. This has been so easy for Chelsea this half.
53 min: Chelsea 2 Lille 0
Lille counter through Remy who beats one defender before losing control of the ball. It has been a very quiet night for the former Chelsea striker.
51 min: Chelsea 2 Lille 0
Chelsea attack again - this time via Azpilicueta on the right hand side. Lille see off this wave before Kante gets a chance to attack down the right. Willian crosses but the ball is intercepted.
49 min: Chelsea 2 Lille 0
Chelsea's dominance has continued at the start of the second half. Pulisic is unleashed down the left by a lovely, weighted pass which draws a foul.
Willian is standing over the free kick, 30 yards out. He whips the ball around the wall but the keeper gets down to make an unconvincing save after initially fumbling the fairly gentle free kick.
47 min: Chelsea 2 Lille 0
Chelsea roll the ball backwards all the way to Kepa who sends the ball forward. Chelsea retain possession, attacking with Emerson down the left.
Pulisic shoots but it is saved - the ball comes out to Willian who should score but the keeper makes another save. Willian should have rolled it past Maignan but instead he shot straight at him.
The second half is underway!
Chelsea get us restarted at Stamford Bridge.
This could end up being five or six goals for Chelsea
Given Lille are already out of the tournament, and now they are 2-0 away from home in the pouring rain, with most of their best players watching on from the bench - I expect a few more goals to come in this dominant Chelsea performance.
A fair summary of this evening's proceedings
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 10, 2019
A brilliant half for Chelsea. They are cruising into the last 16 as it stands. Frank Lampard's side have been utterly dominant against a lucklustre Lille. There could well be more goals to come at Stamford Bridge.
45 +2 min: Chelsea 2 Lille 0
And the free-kick ends the half...
45 min: Chelsea 2 Lille 0
Kante bombs down the right after a one-two with Willian. He flies forward earning another corner for the home side.
Chelsea go short before crossing the ball in. Zouma went up for the cross and has crushed the goalkeeper. That looked very painful - Maignan is still on the ground getting medical attention. Zouma has been booked for the 50-50. That looks a little harsh as both players had their eyes on the ball...
43 min: Chelsea 2 Lille 0
Willian is caught from a challenge from behind. He stayed down but is back up now.
Emerson whips in the resulting free-kick but Remy deflects it away. Chelsea whip in a corner but Abraham fouls the keeper as he tries to win the header.
41 min: Chelsea 2 Lille 0
Frank Lampard's side are spreading the ball around the back, inviting the French side to press them. Lille then pinch the ball and Araujo decides to shoot from 40 yards out. It goes well wide. A bright run wasted...
39 min: Chelsea 2 Lille 0
Remy is back up and about.
Lille have been a little more open since they conceded their second goal. Can they get one back and makes this game interesting?
37 min: Chelsea 2 Lille 0
Chelsea attack again but this time it comes to nothing. Lille attack and a cross finds Remy on the edge of the box. The ball comes to Thiago Maia who fires the ball just over the bar - that was close!
Remy has stayed down after a Rudiger challenge. Hard, but fair.
GOOOOOOAAAAAAL! Azpilicueta Chelsea 2 Lille 0
Emerson whips the ball in and the Chelsea captain becomes unmarked at the front post, nodding the ball home with ease. Huge goal for Chelsea's European campaign.
34 min: Chelsea 1 Lille 0
Chelsea have been impressive thus far. They have controlled the ball nicely and when they have attacked they have looked dangerous. Rudiger and Zouma are playing some excellent diagonal forward balls which has given Chelsea an extra element.
Pulisic then bursts into the box, using some deft footwork to go around the defender with ease. Corner to Chelsea - and another one as the first comes to nothing.
31 min: Chelsea 1 Lille 0
Pulisic finds Emerson who cuts back onto his foot but his shot goes straight at the keeper. The left back has been lively so far this evening.
29 min: Chelsea 1 Lille 0
Lille finally get a chance to attack but they quickly lose possession. Araujo then wins a free-kick for Lille around the half-way line.
The French side are passing the ball around nicely but only in their own half. They are lacking creativity and ambition so far.
28 min: Chelsea 1 Lille 0
BIG NEWS: Valencia have taken the lead against Ajax - as it stands Ajax are going out!
26 min: Chelsea 1 Lille 0
Willian finds space once again but his cross is headed away. Kovacic then crosses from the left but the ball is gathered by the keeper.
Lille start to build from deep but Kante commits a foul to halt their progress.
In-form Tammy Abraham strikes again
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 10, 2019
24 min: Chelsea 1 Lille 0
Willian is having a very good game so far, cruising past defenders with ease. He cuts in onto his left foot but nothing comes of the shot.
Jorginho gives away a foul in Chelsea's half but the cross in does not make it past the first man. Poor execution.
Here is the Tammy Abraham goal
A big, big goal for Chelsea! ��
Tammy Abraham makes no mistake to set the Blues on their way... pic.twitter.com/v78SYFQ5Cv
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) December 10, 2019
21 min: Chelsea 1 Lille 0
Chelsea deserve their lead and, as it stands, Chelsea are going through. Interesting to see whether Lille start to attack more or if they are content to stay sitting deep.
GOOOOOOAAAAAAAL! Abraham Chelsea 1 Lille 0
Willian is played in down the right by Pulisic. The Brazilian crosses the ball along the floor and Abraham taps the ball in. Easy, easy finish.
That had been coming...
18 min: Chelsea 0 Lille 0
A long ball trickles throw to Maignan. Lille have set-up with a very compact formation and Chelsea are trying to play over it.
Lille fail to clear their lines and the ball falls to Kante who volleys the ball just wide of the post. That was close!
Lille just cannot establish any possession so far!
16 min: Chelsea 0 Lille 0
Chelsea work some space down the right. Azpilicueta fires in a low cross but it is dealt with.
The home side attack again - the ball trickles out to Emerson who rifles in a low shot which is just kept out by Maignan. That was a good save in these conditions!
12 min: Chelsea 0 Lille 0
Pulisic turns away from his marker with ease but then loses control of the ball. Emerson wins the ball back but it then runs out for a goal-kick.
It has been all Chelsea so far!
10 min: Chelsea 0 Lille 0
Zouma finds Abraham who lays the ball off to Pulisic. The American works a nice angle for the shot but pulls it wide. Those long balls into the channel are working well for Chelsea.
9 min: Chelsea 0 Lille 0
Rudiger makes a strong tackle to halt a Lille counter-attack. It is been an impressive start for the returning German international who is a commanding presence.
Willian is caught late but the referee is not interested - that should have been a foul. The Brazilian is okay fortunately.
7 min: Chelsea 0 Lille 0
The home side attack again as Kante finds a pocket of space on the left wing. He battles hard winning a corner.
Willian whips the ball in but it is met by Remy at the front post who puts it out for another corner. Willian goes deeper on the second attempt but the keeper claims it with ease.
5 min: Chelsea 0 Lille 0
The rain is really hammering it down, Chelsea cannot let the wet and cold bother them tonight - this match is far too important.
Jorginho makes an important intervention to win the ball back for his side. Chelsea then attack down the right before retreating into their half. Rudiger puts an excellent ball over the top and Abraham gets a tame nod-on towards the keeper. Good from Rudiger.
2 min: Chelsea 0 Lille 0
Lille start confidently, spreading the ball around before losing the ball deep in Chelsea territory.
Chelsea work their way up the pitch before Willian is dispossessed.
Here we go!
Chelsea are, of course, in blue while Lille are in white. Loic Remy will get us underway.
The players are out onto the pitch
It is raining at Stamford Bridge and the weather is pretty grim.
Kick-off is just five minutes away
The biggest match of Frank Lampard's reign is not far away now... time to get nervous Chelsea fans.
Chelsea have a strong record against French sides in Europe
Chelsea have only lost one of their eight previous home games against French sides in the Champions League (W4 D3), although that was their last such fixture, a 1-2 loss to PSG in March 2016.
Can they make it a fifth win?
A Tammy Abraham fan has made it all the way from Japan for tonight's big match
Willian could become Chelsea's fourth-highest scorer in the Champions League tonight
Willian has scored 10 goals for Chelsea in the Champions League, while a goal in this game would make him their outright fourth-highest scorer in the competition, behind Didier Drogba (36), Frank Lampard (23) and Nicolas Anelka (12).
Can Lille cause an upset?
Lille have won their last three matches in Ligue 1 and are currently in third place. They have been impressive domestically but have frankly been out of their depth in the Champions League.
A full-strength Lille side could certainly cause Chelsea some problems. However, tonight's starting XI is far from that. Chelsea have been presented with a superb opportunity to make it out of the group but you just never know...
A Loic Remy masterclass to put the pressure on Frank Lampard's side? Unlikely, but not impossible.
Weather update from Stamford Bridge
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) December 10, 2019
Chelsea need to end their underwhelming home form in Europe tonight to guarantee qualification
Chelsea are winless in their last five Champions League games at Stamford Bridge (D4 L1); their longest run without a win in the competition on home soil.
Loic Remy is back at Stamford Bridge
The French striker never really got much of a chance at Chelsea during his time at the club (2014-17). Remy made much more of an impression in the Premier League during his brief stint at QPR and his time at Newcastle.
That being said, I'm sure the 32-year-old would love to score against his former employers.
Lille will need a lot from Remy tonight as their usual striker, Victor Osimhen, has been their star player. Osimhen has scored nine goals in Ligue 1 this season as well as two of Lille's three goals in Europe. The 20-year-old also won Ligue 1’s September ‘Player of the Month’ award. He is on the bench however, and could make a late appearance.
Frank Lampard could follow in the footsteps of his uncle tonight
If Chelsea qualify to the knockout stages following this game, Frank Lampard will be the first English manager to progress a team from Champions League group stage – having taken charge of all six group games – since Harry Redknapp with Spurs in 2010-11.
Chelsea have a 100 per cent record against Lille...
Chelsea and Lille’s only previous competitive meeting in any competition came in October of this season’s Champions League, with the London club earning a 2-1 win.
Antonio Rudiger is back for Chelsea and he will start in central defence with Kurt Zouma. Christian Pulisic starts in the front three.
The fit-again Germany star replaces Andreas Christensen at centre back, with Jorginho slotting in for Mason Mount and Emerson Palmieri in for Reece James.
Former Chelsea striker Loic Remy starts for Lille while their star forward Victor Osimhen is left on the bench. Former Southampton defender Jeremy Pied makes his Champions League debut.
The equation for Chelsea tonight is very simple; win and they wgo through to the knockout stages. While a draw could be enough to see Frank Lampard’s side escape from the group, that would rely on the Ajax beating Valencia - possible, but far from definite.
Chelsea would be extremely disappointed if they had to rely on results elsewhere. Lille have only managed to pick up one point in this European campaign and lie at the bottom of the group, well adrift from everyone else. Add home advantage into the equation and this really should be straightforward. However, the pressure of a must-win game for a side that have struggled in recent outings could impact Chelsea. Lampard’s team have lost three of their last four Premier League games, as many defeats as they suffered in their previous 20 in the competition.
While qualification to the last sixteen would undoubtedly represent a success for Chelsea’s young side, going out tonight would now be marked as a failure given the relatively straightforward scenario they find themselves in.
Here are Frank Lampard's thoughts ahead of the match:
"I was fortunate to have big nights like this as a player, and they are the ones that stick in your mind,” said Lampard.
"So these are big opportunities now for the team - particularly the young boys when it's quite new to them - to make a mark.
“I like the pressure of this game being knockout."
The return of Antonio Rudiger to the fold has been lauded as a real bonus by the Chelsea manager. The German international’s return is timely with Fikayo Tomori unavailable due to a minor hip issue.
"He's a good defender, it's good to have him back and he's training really well," said Lampard.
"People maybe overlooked the fact that we were missing a number of big players at the start of the season. Rudi is just back, so let's see what he can add to us now."
Lille boss Christophe Galtier has promised his team will be competitive in west London, regardless of who takes to the field.
"I will tell my players that it's a privilege to play here in the Champions League at Stamford Bridge against a club like Chelsea," he said.
"There's nothing to play for, for us, and for the other three teams they can all be knocked out.
"I don't know the starting XI just yet, but I know some players will be rested.”
Despite the Lille manger’s promise to be competitive, the test facing Chelsea could not be much more favourable in a must-win scenario. Lille will field a heavily rotated side, having nothing to play for in this competition whereas Chelsea are at home and need to secure the three points. Over to you Chelsea...