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Chelsea's inconsistent UCL efforts create reasons for hope and concern

Chelsea's inconsistent UCL efforts create reasons for hope and concern
From ESPN - December 7, 2017

It's difficult to know how to judge Chelsea's Champions League campaign so far this season.

On the one hand, there must be a reasonable amount of satisfaction with qualifying for the knockout stages -- especially after being given a tough draw in Group C. Although seeded as champions of England, Chelsea were handed Atletico Madrid and Roma; one a finalist twice in the past four years and the other a Serie A powerhouse stacked with talented footballers. And there were the supposed whipping boys of the group, Qarabag of Azerbaijan.

But having got off to a dream start by securing maximum points from their first two games including an historic 2-1 win away to Atletico, finishing second while only accruing a further five points from their subsequent four matches carries with it a tinge of disappointment. The chance to really make a statement after a year's absence from Europe's top table was missed despite that eye-catching victory at the new Wanda Metropolitano.

The decisive section of the group was clearly the back-to-back fixtures with Roma. That the Blues only collected a solitary point from their meetings was ultimately the difference between first and second place and yet it is hard to accept that the Italian's were markedly superior. The 3-3 draw at Stamford Bridge was an eventful affair in which Chelsea's clinical finishing saw them go up 2-0 before Edin Dzeko inspired his team to make it 3-2 before Eden Hazard levelled things later on.

The 3-0 defeat at the Stadio Olimpico was even stranger. Chelsea were utterly dominant in the first half and should have put the game out of sight only for a mixture of poor finishing and incisive counterattacks by the home side seeing Roma find themselves up 2-0 at the break. The second half, however, saw Chelsea put in their worst performance under Antonio Conte as they all but waved the white flag.

On another day, Chelsea might have won both those fixtures or at least been the team that reaped four points from them. Had N'Golo Kante been fit to play in either of them it is highly likely the Londoners would now be in the hat as group winners. Should Chelsea meet Roma again later in the tournament they will be confident of reversing their fortunes.

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