Chelsea v Lille: Back a comfortable win for Tuchel's hosts

James Eastham expects an easy night for the Blues when they face Lille in their Champions League Last 16 first leg at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday night...

Mount out, Renato Sanches a doubt

Chelsea will be without Mason Mount for this Last 16 first leg fixture. The England international has been ruled out with an ankle injury. Cesar Azpilicueta and Callum Hudson-Odoi are uncertain to start because of knocks.

For Lille, Portugal midfielder Renato Sanches has only a 50 per cent chance of starting the game because of injury. In all other positions the visitors should be able to field their strongest line-up, in their usual 4-4-2 formation.

Lille weaker than last season

There's a quality deficit between these two sides that means Chelsea should have little difficulty in claiming a first-leg lead to put themselves in the driving seat in the tie.

The London-based outfit are one of the Premier League's top three sides and should have too much class in most areas of the pitch for game but limited visitors.

Last season, Lille stunned French football when they clinched the Ligue 1 title ahead of star-studded PSG. It was a magnificent triumph, and fully deserved given some of the football Lille produced, plus their consistency over the course of the campaign.

Yet their team is weaker both on and off the field now, and that will play into the hosts' hands.

After their title triumph Christophe Galtier - the coach who masterminded Lille's route to glory - handed in his notice. He is now working at Nice.

After a shaky start, new manager Jocelyn Gourvennec has settled into the role, but he's inexperienced at the elite level, which counts against the visitors.

Four members of Lille's title-winning side have gone as well: goalkeeper Mike Maignan (Milan), left-back Reinildo Mandava (Atletico Madrid), midfielder Boubakary Soumare (Leicester City) and right winger Jonathan Ikone (Fiorentina).

Ivo Grbic, the replacement for Maignan in goal, was recently dropped because of poor form - erstwhile understudy Leonardo Jardim is expected to start here - while the club failed to sign a replacement for Mandava when he moved to La Liga last month.

In short, the 2021-22 version of Lille is clearly weaker than the 2020-21 title-winning vintage, meaning the smart move is to find ways to support Chelsea.

Easy home win on cards

As you'd expect, Thomas Tuchel's side are short odds to win on the night. At the time of writing, the hosts are 1.34 in the match odds market.

If the price on a Chelsea win is unappealing, consider backing the Blues on the Asian Handicap. Chelsea will be available at around evens with a -1.5 start.

With this bet, you'll make a profit if Chelsea win by two goals or more. Lille have a recent history of losing heavily to top-class opposition: they were trounced 5-1 at home by PSG on February 6.

It's also worth noting Chelsea twice ran up big winning margins in the Champions League group stages this season, defeating Malmo and then Juventus 4-0. For a full guide to Asian Handicap betting, click here.

Defensive shortcomings in the visitors' ranks also point us towards our second recommendation on the game.

We're happy to back Chelsea/Over 2.5 Goals in the Match Odds and Over/Under 2.5 Goals market as we expect a high-scoring rather than low-scoring encounter.

Concerns over Lille's goalkeeping situation and the fact they failed to replace Mandava last month mean the visitors will be vulnerable at the back throughout the game.

With a fine array of attackers at their disposal, Chelsea ought to be able to take advantage. Lille are unlikely to put up resistance for long, and an early Chelsea goal would see the game open up.

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