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  • Writer's pictureBy Yann Tear at Stamford Bridge

Chelsea regroup ahead of Arsenal with routine final group win over Dinamo Zagreb

Picture: Paul Lagan

Chelsea made it four wins in a row to complete a sound turnaround in their group after a dodgy start which brought a defeat and a draw.

Goals from Raheem Sterling and Denis Zakaria put the Blues 2-1 up after they had trailed early on to Dinamo Zagreb and they managed to close the deal without too much fuss.

Here are some of the main talking points of the night.

A timely dead rubber

With that all-important Sunday lunchtime clash with Arsenal looming, it was arguably very useful to have a stress-free midweek warm-up. In contrast to the Gunners, who play 24 hours later against FC Zurich in a game they need to win to avoid an extra round of Europa League football, the Blues were glad that their work to qualify for the knock-outs was already done. The lack of edge did not help with the intensity and they trailed early on as a consequence. But in a season of manic non-stop activity, this night of no great significance was very welcome.

Potter should have a soft spot for Dinamo

It was not because of the Croatians’ win over Chelsea in the first group game in September that Thomas Tuchel’s stay was shown the door, but that loss probably made it easier for the board to justify a change at the top. Cue the arrival of Graham Potter and a decent unbeaten start to his reign at Stamford Bridge – which was only brought to an end by his old club in Saturday’s 4-1 drubbing on the south coast. Whatever happens in the long term, Potter will have reason to think of Zagreb as a lucky omen.

And so should Denis Zakaria

The 25-year-old Swiss defensive midfielder, on loan from Juventus, has waited a while to get a chance and he bagged a goal after half an hour to put the Blues 2-1 up – Sterling having cancelled out a seventh minute header from Bruno Petkovic. Judging by the reaction of team-mates, he is a popular lad in the dressing room. It remains to be seen whether this one moment can unlock a new chapter in his career, but it was a good way to announce his arrival.

Was a denuded bench a coded message?

Whenever Jose Mourinho was unhappy with the composition of his squad and wanted recruitments, he’d make his point not so subtly to the owner by under-populating the subs’ bench. Potter only named eight players, compared to the 12 listed by Dinamo. In truth, it hardly matters when you can only bring on five anyway but it looks strange to see a team-sheet so lopsided. It also is hard to imagine Potter thinking along the same lines as the wily Portuguese. The late injury to Ben Chilwell with a hamstring strain increased the feeling that it might have been better to rest one or two of the first teamers on duty tonight.

Thoughts of Arsenal match uppermost in minds

So just how will the Blues react to that crushing defeat at Brighton? Can they make a bigger impression on the north Londoners than they did on Manchester United in their previous big domestic outing at the Bridge? The table-topping Gunners look like posing quite a stern test and with only one more Premier League match to come after it ahead of the World Cup break - a tricky visit to Newcastle - so the need to lay down a marker is real. Fail in the next two games and the early promise shown of life post-Tuchel will be less persuasive. Long before the end of Wednesday night's clash, fans and players alike were probably already starting to contemplate what is to come. With a Carabao Cup tie at Man City to come too, the remaining matches were always going to be more important than this one.


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