Indeed, the short turnaround between matches saw Graham Potter and his players back in training on Sunday, a day after their nervy 1-0 win over Leeds, an indication of the precious little time they have to prepare for Tuesday’s must-win Champions League clash.
In what has been dubbed a make-or-break double header for Potter and Chelsea, Leeds was the match they always should have won on paper – and did thanks to Wesley Fofana’s header – but Borussia Dortmund present far sterner opposition, with the German club holding a 1-0 lead heading into the second leg of this last-16 tie.
A penny for Todd Boehly’s expectations, then. The co-owner has just watched his side scrape to a second win of 2023, but will be surely casting a more scrutinising eye on Tuesday’s performance – and, ultimately, the outcome.
Potter, meanwhile, is under no illusions. “You have to go through good and bad experiences to develop and grow with a team that is adapting to each other and growing as a collective,” he said on Saturday.
“This experience will be important. 1-0 wins, although you want them to be more comfortable, they show a bit about your character and resilience. It’s important to keep a clean sheet as well.”
Potter kicks nearly every ball in his technical area, and for a man who almost defies gravity with his backward leans after each missed chance, he knows defeat to Dortmund may well send him to the canvas, a knockout blow in knockout circumstances.
Conversely, he knows this is an opportunity for his finest night at Chelsea, one that would outweigh the wins over AC Milan in the Champions League group stages.
To do so, he would be best sticking to 3-4-3, with a return to this formation bringing the best out of Ben Chilwell, their standout player on Saturday. It is a system that eagerly awaits Reece James’ return, too, with a tight hamstring ruling the wing-back out against Leeds.
For all of Chelsea’s £600m-plus signings this season, it is homegrown star James that could yet have the greatest sway. Making this campaign memorable is arguably only possible with a Champions League run.
“It brings out their quality and is something we should go forward with,” Potter added, on his decision to go back to 3-4-3, a formation they last started with in October in the league. “Both Ben and Reece have been unavailable a long time, we’ve had to find different solutions but clearly it’s a role they’re comfortable in.”
Both Chilwell and James could re-emerge as their greatest outlets, although creators are only as good as their finishers. Potter will demand more from a forward line that showed glimpses but ultimately relied on a centre-back to score from Chilwell’s corner against Leeds.
“We have to attack better as a team,” Potter said, when quizzed on Kai Havertz’s contribution. “That’s my responsibility, it’s too easy to zoom into individuals and blame them. It’s a collective, we have to create more and do better, and that starts with me. I don’t doubt the quality of the players.”
One promising sign for Potter will be the united front his side showed in the face of adversity, particularly as his players will have been aware of the pressure their head coach was under.
The win over Leeds was far from plain-sailing, but the Blues showed endeavour and impressed particularly in the first half before the nerves kicked in. “Oh I was really relaxed, it was lovely!” Potter joked, when asked about the final 20 minutes.
And with a big European night on the way too, Potter will be hoping that Raheem Sterling can build on his promising display against Leeds.
“You can see his quality, and if he’s enjoying his football he’s a really important player for us,” Potter said. “You can see what he brings, but he’s still building as that hamstring is getting strong and stronger each minute. We want to make sure he’s ready for Tuesday.
“His goalscoring record in the Champions League speaks for itself. He’s a proven campaigner in that competition and hopefully contributing [on Tuesday].”