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UCL: ‘Chelsea are not affected by govt restrictions on the pitch’

The restrictions on Chelsea and sanctions on their owner do not seem to be affecting the club’s performances on the pitch as they are regularly winning games, Lille coach Jocelyn Gourvennec said on Tuesday ahead of their Champions League tie.

Chelsea are operating on a special licence from the British government that has limited their spending and impacted their operations after sanctions were imposed on their Russian owner Roman Abramovich.

Lille host Chelsea in their Champions League last-16 second leg on Wednesday with the French club looking to overcome a 2-0 deficit after the first leg at Stamford Bridge last month.

“Since there are these problems, for a bit more than three weeks, they continue to win their games,” Gourvennec told a news conference.

“In England, they are staying strong. Even on Sunday against Newcastle (United), they scored in the 90th or 91st minute (to win the game). So it doesn’t feel like they are impacted by that.”

Lille, however, will be without Renato Sanches after the 24-year-old Portuguese midfielder picked up a muscle injury that will keep him sidelined for three weeks.

“Renato is an exceptional player who can do everything and play everywhere. We will organise ourselves without him, we have different possible options,” Gourvennec said.

“The most important thing is that the players who start are pumped up to 300 per cent. There can be no second thoughts. We will have to play with a lot of courage and heart and we are not lacking in it, it will take emotional control.”

Lill were last season’s Ligue 1 champions but find themselves in sixth place this season, with Gourvennec saying they were given only a “10 per cent chance of qualifying” for the next round.

“The Champions League is an exceptional competition. Totally unpredictable things have happened in its history,” he added.

“It’s a competition made of legends, emotions and tragedy in which unexpected comebacks take place. This must give us strength.”

Fellow Ligue 1 club Paris St Germain were leading Real Madrid 2-0 on aggregate before the Spanish side scored three times in the second half of the second leg to eliminate the French league leaders last week.

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