After failing to win either of their first two Champions League group games, the Blues revived their European campaign after thrashing AC Milan 3-0 at Stamford Bridge last week. The win saw Graham Potter’s side draw level on points with the Rossoneri in second, just a point behind group leaders RB Salzburg.
AC Milan, on the other hand, drew 1-1 with Salzburg away, before beating Dinamo Zagreb 3-1 as they look to make it to the knockout stages of the competition. With injuries aplenty, Stefano Pioli’s side facing a daunting task against an in-form Chelsea side.
On that note, let us take a look at the key player battles that could define the game on Tuesday.
#Mateo Kovacic vs Sandro Tonali
Chelsea’s Mateo Kovacic will vie with AC Milan’s Sandro Tonali for midfield supremacy at the San Siro.
Kovacic, of course, enjoys more freedom than Tonali, with the Croatian international given the license to roam anywhere he wants to in a bid to control games. The Italian, on the other hand, primarily does the job of screening the backline, always on the lookout to cut out the opposition attacks and drive forward with the ball.
If Kovacic manages to pull the strings and stretch the Milan backline, Chelsea could be in for a big night. However, if Tonali stops Kovacic from progressing the ball and getting into little pockets of spaces, Milan could enjoy the dominance in midfield. A top midfield battle awaits!
#Rafael Leao vs Reece James
Rafael Leao is one of Milan’s most dangerous players and was unplayable at times in the 2-0 win over Juventus last weekend. Despite not assisting or scoring, he created many chances for his teammates and proved again why he is such a vital player for Stefano Pioli.
Leao will be looking to put in a similar kind of show when Chelsea visit the San Siro. Having been well-marshalled by the Chelsea defence at Stamford Bridge, especially Reece James, the Portuguese speedster will be eager to make a mark in the reverse tie.
James had the better of Leao last week, as not only did he keep the Milan forward quiet but also scored a smashing goal in Chelsea’s 3-0 win. With Leao out to level things up, the Chelsea wing-back must put in his best performance to get his team over the line.
#Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang vs Fikayo Tomori
Chelsea beat Milan 3-0 at home last week, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang among the scorers. Aubameyang would have been happy to get his European campaign up and running, and he’ll be hungry for more on Tuesday.
After being an unused substitute in the 3-0 win over Wolves, the Gabonese will be fresh and raring to go against Milan. Standing in front of him will be Fikayo Tomori, who atoned for his mistake against the Blues last week with a goal plus solid performance against Juventus.
A no-nonsense defender with good composure on the ball, Tomori will need to stay switched on for the entire 90 minutes to keep Aubameyang and co. at bay. It will be interesting to watch how the England international manages to progress the ball from the back while dealing with the threat of the Chelsea striker.