Reece James would have been surprised to see his name in an unfamiliar right wing role on the Chelsea teamsheet for Tuesday night’s Champions League match against Bayern Munich. UEFA positioned the right-back in attack on their pre-match graphic, causing Blues fans to mock the organisation for their gaffe.
James has enjoyed a breakthrough campaign at Stamford Bridge this season, emerging as a genuine contender to Cesar Azpilicueta under Frank Lampard.
The 20-year-old has shone at right-back, both in the Premier League and Europe this term, forcing the veteran Azpilicueta to move out of position.
And James got the nod once more as Chelsea hosted Bayern Munich for the first leg of their Champions League Round of 16 tie.
Lampard chose to deploy a back five in an attempt to nullify the Bavarian giants, who fielded Robert Lewandowski, Kingsley Coman, Thomas Muller and Serge Gnabry in a formidable attack.
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James was deployed as right wing-back, lining up outside Azpilicueta, Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen while Marcos Alonso occupied the other flank.
However, UEFA positioned the youngster on the right wing in their pre-game teamsheet, supporting Olivier Giroud and Mason Mount in attack.
This mistake was also duplicated on the TV graphic, with the Blues set up in a 4-3-3 formation.
Replying to an image of the blunder, one Chelsea fans said “James at RW” accompanied by a crying laughter emoji.
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Another said: “Please ask Lampard what’s happening with him? It makes no sense.”
Some supporters were keen to see Chelsea actually deploy the formation, with one saying “Would be decent that.”
James was also likened to Real Madrid ace James Rodriguez while one fan said: “It’s UEFA, they generally are idiots that work there.”
UEFA have previously been criticised for similar administrative mistakes, while the organisation is also targeted by the fans of several clubs during the Champions League anthem.
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Manchester City fans have been conspicuous in booing during the traditional pre-game tradition, with the Citizens believing there is a lobby within UEFA which actively works against their interests.
Supporters also believe UEFA favour the established elite, with the problems stemming back from the inconsistent application of fines in 2011.
Porto received a paltry €20,000 fine after fans racially abused Mario Balotelli, while City were fined €30,000 for being 30 seconds late arriving on the pitch against Sporting Lisbon a month later.
Financial Fair Play rules also caused further outrage, as City were slapped with a £49million fine as well as restrictions on spending in 2014 – meaning UEFA are not all that popular at the Etihad.
City are now facing a two-season Champions League ban having been deemed by UEFA to have broken FFP rules.
As for James, former Chelsea player Joe Cole believes the starlet has what it takes to push Trent Alexander-Arnold in the England set-up.
“He is different class, Reece” Cole told BT Sport.
“People talk about his delivery but he is very rarely out of position defensively, he is a strong lad, he is cold, he is calculated in his play.
“You see him here [on video footage], he is getting out to Iwobi and just look at that strength, he brushes him off, Iwobi is a strong boy and he drives.
“He has been one of Chelsea’s most consistent players over the last few weeks and this is why. He is going to be pushing Trent all the way, timing of his defence.
“When he gets the ball, you feel safe in any position and you will see the highlight because he just puts balls into the area, it is inviting. If you are a striker now, that’s a little pitching wedge and it is just on his head.
“I think he is different class and I think he is going to be pushing Trent all the way and maybe, there might be a system change because this guy is going to have to be playing for England very, very soon.”
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