A look at what’s happening in European soccer on Wednesday:
LILLE vs. CHELSEA (0-2)
Turmoil is engulfing Chelsea as it tries to protect the two-goal lead against Lille to extend its Champions League title defense into the quarterfinals. The club is only able to operate under a British government license — after owner Roman Abramovich was sanctioned — and its ability to spend and generate cash is restricted. At least on the field, Chelsea seems unaffected by the uncertainty of a necessary sale of the club — with Thomas Tuchel keeping the Blues third in the Premier League. French champion Lille has rediscovered its defensive form recently — it played a fifth league game in a row without conceding a goal last week — but scoring has proved more problematic. Without the injured Renato Sanches, Lille coach Jocelyn Gourvennec is likely to give a starting role to American forward Tim Weah in a 4-4-2 system. “We played well in the first leg. We shared the possession, but offensively, we were not dangerous enough. We need to be more clinical in their half,” Gourvennec said.
JUVENTUS VS. VILLARREAL (1-1)
The last time Juventus advanced past the round of 16 in the Champions League, Massimiliano Allegri coached the Bianconeri to a comeback victory over Atlético Madrid in 2019. After consecutive home eliminations over the last two years under Maurizio Sarri and Andrea Pirlo, respectively, Allegri is back in charge at Juventus and the team is facing another Spanish club. Juventus has three key players — captain Giorgio Chiellini and forwards Paulo Dybala and Federico Bernardeschi — back from injury. But Allegri said all three players will start on the bench: “They don’t have 90 minutes in their legs but they could be three great substitutes.” Defender Leonardo Bonucci is still out injured. It remained unclear if Villarreal coach Unai Emery would be able to count on Raúl Albiol, Étienne Capoue, Gerard Moreno and Juan Foyth, who had been nursing injuries.
The title race that looked over a few weeks ago is heating up. Manchester City’s draw at Crystal Palace means Liverpool can close the gap on the leaders to a point with victory at Arsenal. Jürgen Klopp’s team is currently on an eight-match league winning run and striker Mohamed Salah is expected to be in the squad after a foot injury forced him off during Saturday’s win at Brighton. Tottenham is the next visitor to Brighton in Wednesday’s other game as an outsider in the race for the top four after Saturday’s loss at Manchester United left Spurs six points behind fourth-placed Arsenal, which has a game in hand. United, West Ham and Wolverhampton are also in the mix for the final Champions League spot.
Mainz returns to Bundesliga action after its coronavirus outbreak with a home game against second-place Borussia Dortmund. Bo Svensson’s team had 20 infections among players and coaching staff, forcing the postponement of two games. Dortmund’s visit was the first to be put off followed by last weekend’s scheduled game in Augsburg. Most of the affected players have since tested negative for COVID-19, but as Svensson said Tuesday, that doesn’t mean they’ll be fully fit for Dortmund’s visit. Still, they have to play. Dortmund is looking for a win to cut the gap on league leader Bayern Munich to just four points with eight rounds remaining.
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