Champions League preview: Chelsea suffer sanctions blues, Man Utd boosted by Ronaldo heroics

London, UK - Title-holder Chelsea will travel to Lille for the second leg of their Champions League last 16 tie on Wednesday defending a two-goal lead but facing a world of trouble off the pitch.

Sanctions placed on Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich mean that the club cannot sell any merchandise.
Sanctions placed on Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich mean that the club cannot sell any merchandise.  © IMAGO / PA Images

This is no routine match as Thomas Tuchel's team prepare to travel away for the first time since Russian owner Roman Abramovich had his assets frozen as part of UK government sanctions following the invasion of Ukraine.

Chelsea is officially restricted to spending just 20,000 pounds ($26,100) on away games, though media reports suggest some flexibility could be applied.

"Nothing has changed so far for me," Tuchel said after Sunday's 1-0 win over Newcastle. "My last information is that we have a plane so we can go by plane and go back by plane."

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"If not we go by train, if not we go by bus, if not I drive a seven-seater and I will do it."

"There are some talks going on about the organization but it does not influence me because we have brilliant guys who organize the travel and in every department so committed people that make things feel pretty normal in the moment."

Chelsea shouldn't see much difficulty in progressing past Lille, who are a modest sixth in the table after last year's shock Ligue 1 triumph.

But a flat performance against Newcastle, amid uncertainty over the future of some players who expiring contracts cannot be renewed, will create some doubt. Only a late moment of Kai Havertz magic won it the game on Sunday.

The Blues are the only side defending a lead this week, with Juventus resuming in Turin at the same time 1-1 with Villarreal.

United banking on resurgent Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo celebrating the first of his three goals against Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday.
Cristiano Ronaldo celebrating the first of his three goals against Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday.  © IMAGO / PA Images

A day earlier, Ajax welcome fellow former champions Benfica to Amsterdam after a 2-2 draw in Lisbon and Manchester United host Atlético Madrid with the tie 1-1.

Diego Simeone's Atlético was the better side for the majority of the first leg but conceded a late equalizer – though in the absence of the away goals rule this has less weight than previously.

Both teams are scrambling to finish in the top four domestically to qualify for next season's Champions League. However, Cristiano Ronaldo's superb hat-trick against Tottenham on Saturday has lifted the mood at Old Trafford.

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"Everybody in this city, every Man United fan, all the players, all the staff members, we want to proceed into the last eight of the Champions League," said interim coach Ralf Rangnick.

"I think this game, and this result, will give us a boost for the game on Tuesday."

The quarter-final draw is Friday with Bayern Munich, Liverpool, Real Madrid, and Manchester City already through from their ties last week.

Cover photo: Collage: Imago / PA Images

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