Chelsea on penalties in 2019, and tonight Chelsea return to this showpiece fixture for the fourth time in the last nine years. Previous outings also include a shootout defeat against Bayern Munich in 2013, when a certain Romelu Lukaku missed the decisive penalty, and when they were torn to pieces by Radamel Falcao and Atletico Madrid in 2012.
In truth, it is not a game that tends to live long in the memory, coming at an awkward juncture days before Chelsea start their Premier League season at home to Crystal Palace. Thomas Tuchel will want to add more European silverware to the mantelpiece though, after guiding Chelsea to a stunning Champions League success just months into the job. He has brought structure, intensity and defensive rigour that was lacking under Frank Lampard, making Chelsea one of the hardest teams to play through and giving precious little away. With the return of Lukaku to Stamford Bridge imminent, he should score the goals that turn frustrating draws into wins, especially at home where Chelsea tend to dominate most matches. Challenging Manchester City for the title is their stated aim.
At Belfast’s Windsor Park tonight they face Unai Emery’s Villarreal, who knocked out Arsenal and defeated Manchester United in the final of last season’s Europa League. It was Emery’s fourth success in the competition, and his team are nuggety with a good habit of making sure matches are played at a bitty rhythm which suits them. There is quality too, with left-footed central defender Pau Torres linked with Real Madrid but dangerous forward Samuel Chukwueze misses out through injury. Former Tottenham player Juan Foyth’s bursts forward from right-back are also a key outlet for them.
Full team news on the way shortly.