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Champions League: Why Olivier Giroud should start for Chelsea against Porto in the quarter-final

Olivier Giroud has played more minutes of football for France than he has at Chelsea since the beginning of March.

The forward started against Ukraine and came off the bench against Bosnia-Herzegovina in France’s recent World Cup qualifiers, totalling 94 minutes in comparison to the 63 he has played for Chelsea in the past five weeks – all coming in the FA Cup win over Sheffield United on March 21.

This is not what Giroud would have had in mind after his acrobatics in late February gave Chelsea the foundations for an impressive 3-0 aggregate victory over Atletico Madrid in the Champions League last-16.

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The only scorer in Bucharest was then left on the bench for the second leg at Stamford Bridge.

He has remained there for the majority of Chelsea’s matches ever since – an unused sub in their past four Premier League games.

“I have to adapt back to three changes,” Thomas Tuchel had said last month, when explaining the lack of Giroud. “It’s my job to push him and give him the feeling that he is still important.”

Chelsea’s French striker Olivier Giroud warms up

Foto: Getty Images

Giroud could well return to the fold on Wednesday night when Chelsea head to Seville to play Porto (you read that correctly) for the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final.

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Arguably, he should start. Chelsea have not exactly been firing goals in without him – they’re yet to score more than two in a game under Tuchel – while he is the ideal candidate to go into combat with Porto centre-back Pepe, the 38-year-old who was instrumental when knocking out Juventus last time out.
Juve had their chances in that thrilling last-16 second leg, and while opportunities rarely fell at Cristiano Ronaldo’s feet, it was from crosses where they should have converted at least one more to prevent the tie from going to extra time.

Juve had 31 shots against Porto. Thirteen found the target, seven were off target, with 11 blocked. But more staggering was the 62 crosses they played in 120 minutes.

Juan Cuadrado’s pinpoint ball in found the head of Federico Chiesa for the goal which forced extra time, but while Cuadrado had an unerring accuracy with his crosses, all too often the finish was not applied, with Alvaro Morata guilty on more than one occasion.

Give Giroud half, or even a quarter, of those chances and he would surely convert at least one – especially as the Frenchman remains one of the best first-time finishers in the Premier League.

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The overhead kick against Atletico was Giroud’s sixth goal in Europe this season, and on Wednesday Chelsea are returning to the scene of his four-goal haul against Sevilla from this year’s group stages.

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Giroud’s hat-trick goal came from a cross, and while the fourth was from the penalty spot, the first two were from a position which proved he is more that just an aerial threat.

Those four goals may count for almost a third of his total tally this season, and that performance may have come under previous manager Frank Lampard, but Tuchel is aware Giroud could conjure up more magic at Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan if given the opportunity.

“He’s in the running and in the squad,” Tuchel said, when asked about Giroud’s chances of starting against Porto.

He’s absolutely excited to return to Sevilla and play there so it gives him a good feeling. He’s been very strong for us in the Champions League and he has history in Sevilla scoring many goals in this campaign.

“I’m super happy because today is the first time everybody is back in training so this is what you want. We will have some major decisions to take and I have the feeling that we’re absolutely ready for tomorrow’s game.”

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Who starts at centre forward is undoubtedly one of those “major” decisions Tuchel must make, and it would be no surprise to see Giroud selected to reprise a role he performed against Atletico. One that earned Chelsea a 1-0 away win, but one that was then deemed unsuitable to the second-leg task of defending a lead and countering where possible.

In this instance, lightning could well strike twice. If Giroud scores and Chelsea lead after the first leg, he may well be surplus to requirements next week.

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