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Chelsea progress breathes new life into Graham Potter's reign

There was delight for Graham Potter on Tuesday as his Chelsea side beat Borussia Dortmund 2-0 to book their place in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

After losing 1-0 last month in Germany, the Blues turned the tables on Der BVB, Raheem Sterling opening the scoring after 43 minutes before Kai Havertz sealed a 2-1 aggregate victory with a retaken penalty on a raucous night at a revitalised Stamford Bridge.

Potter can now relax and look forward to Friday 17th March's draw, with his focus in the meantime likely to be on his team's domestic fortunes.

After Saturday's 1-0 win over Leeds United, Tuesday's triumph will have further bolstered the Chelsea board's belief that Potter is the right man to take the team forward.

With his side sat 10th in the Premier League, there are still doubts about the 47-year-old's future, but a run in Europe could fuel what looks an unlikely push towards continental football for next season.

WhatChampions League 2022/23
When21st June 2022 - 10th June 2023
WhereVarious, final to be played in Istanbul
How to watchBT Sport
OddsMan City 2/1, Bayern Munich 7/2, Real Madrid 6/1, Napoli 7/1, Chelsea 10/1

Has luck changed for Potter?

Potter made a fine start to life at Stamford Bridge after leaving Brighton in September to take up the vacancy left by Thomas Tuchel, avoiding defeat in his first nine games before losing 4-1 at his former club.

However, life has been challenging since then, losing to Arsenal, Manchester City (three times), Newcastle United, Fulham, Dortmund and Southampton.

The Blues' form inevitably led to calls for Potter to be sacked but the board remained bullishly behind him, insisting he was the right coach to take their new-look squad forward.

Owner Todd Boelhy spent around £300million on new players in January, a record amount for any transfer window and two of those recent arrivals, Enzo Fernandez and Joao Felix started Tuesday's game.

After Saturday's win over Leeds, Chelsea looked far more confident and cohesive as a unit and deservedly took the lead through Sterling just before the break.

Havertz then kept his cool after being handed a second chance from the penalty spot.

The 23-year-old's original effort hit the post, but VAR intervened to suggest there had been encroachment and Havertz rolled home the tie-winning goal at the second time of asking.

Potter and his players may view that whole incident as evidence that their luck is about to change, with the penalty award itself seen as harsh after Marius Wolf was adjudged to have handled Ben Chilwell's cross from close range, while although part of the rules, rarely is a penalty retaken for encroachment.

Europe could save Blues' season

The win over Dortmund arguably went against the form book. Der BVB arrived in London on the back of 10 straight wins in all competitions, but failed to ignite at Stamford Bridge, with injuries to attackers Karim Adeyemi and Youssoufa Moukoko costing them, while key man Julian Brandt lasted just five minutes of Tuesday's match.

However, Chelsea will feel they deserved the result and, with them sitting 10th in the Premier League table, seven points adrift of sixth-placed Newcastle, who also have a game in hand on them, the Champions League could rescue their campaign.

Chelsea are 50/1 To Finish in Top 4 in the Premier League but 10/1 for the Champions League Outright. With them struggling at home, potentially lifting 'Old Big Ears' for the third time has become more important, as it would guarantee automatic qualification for next season's Champions League.

The Blues have been here before, beating the odds to win the tournament in 2012 under Roberto Di Matteo.

With them struggling at home, potentially lifting 'Old Big Ears' for the third time has become more important, as it would guarantee automatic qualification for next season's Champions League.

That was the case in 2011/12 when the club eventually finished sixth and they are 8/1 to again end the campaign in the Top Six.

Speaking after Tuesday's game, Potter described the win as arguably the "biggest" of his career and will now be hoping that those strikes from Sterling and Havertz can act as catalysts for the closing months of the season.

A chance to focus on domestic issues

The key for Chelsea now is to capitalise on their two big victories and, on paper at least, they have a pair of winnable games before domestic football breaks for the March internationals.

They head to Leicester City on Saturday at 15:00 and, having triumphed 3-0 there last season, are 19/20 to get a result at the King Power Stadium.

Newly-confident Sterling scored twice when the Blues beat the Foxes 2-1 at The Bridge earlier this season and is 13/5 to net at Anytime.

Potter's side then close out March at home to Everton, a side they beat 1-0 on the opening weekend and they are 9/20 to triumph again against the Toffees.

After months of relative misery, which saw Chelsea win just two of 16 games in all competitions, there is now an air of optimism in SW6 and a chance for Potter to mould his young squad into the team he and the club's hierarchy believe they can be.

Tuesday's game showed precisely where the Blues want to be, playing attacking football with their fans right behind them, singing their praises.

After some tough times at the helm, the defeat of Dortmund could signal a change in both Potter's and his team's fortunes.

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