Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been dropped from Chelsea’s Champions League squad, with head coach Graham Potter bringing in new recruits Joao Felix, Enzo Fernandez and Mykhailo Mudryk.
The dramatic move to ditch striker Aubameyang reflects the striker’s declining status with the Blues, for whom he last started a game in November.
Potter warned on Thursday there would be “awkward” conversations ahead as he finalised his group for the remainder of Chelsea’s European campaign, and leaving out 33-year-old Aubameyang may have been on his mind at the time.
The former Arsenal and Barcelona frontman has scored only three goals this season in 18 appearances, of which 10 have been starts, and his absence leaves Chelsea without an out-and-out striker.
Aubameyang started in all six of Chelsea’s Champions League group games, scoring home and away against Milan.
Potter has instead put his trust in Kai Havertz, who has spent much of his career as an attacking midfielder, plus attackers Joao Felix, who is on loan from Atletico Madrid, and Mudryk, who arrived from Shakhtar Donetsk.
Raheem Sterling, named as a midfielder on Chelsea’s squad list, is another front-line option.
Chelsea face Borussia Dortmund at the last-16 stage of the Champions League, with the away leg on February 15 and the home game set for March 7.
Winning that competition looks to be club’s best opportunity of getting back into the Champions League for next season, given Chelsea are flagging in 10th place in the Premier League.
Joao Felix and Mudryk have been joined by fellow January signing Fernandez in Potter’s squad for Europe, but four players acquired during the mid-season transfer window miss out: Benoit Badiashile, Andrey Santos, David Datro Fofana and Noni Madueke.
Chelsea, like all clubs, were only allowed to add three new names to the squad that contested the group stage, with no more than 25 players allowed.
Another notable inclusion was Hakim Ziyech, the winger who looked set to join Paris Saint-Germain on deadline day, only for the deal to collapse late on.