In a season where youth has been the solution for Chelsea, Callum Hudson-Odoi has struggled to leave his mark.
After recording 13 goal contributions under former manager Maurizio Sarri, an achilles tendon rupture in April 2019 brought an abrupt end to his debut campaign. A remarkable five-month recovery saw him return to the first team fold, but truth be told, he has not been the same since his comeback.
Since scoring in his first game back against Grimsby Town in September, Hudson-Odoi has managed three goals and six assists, with his last goal coming seven months ago. The 19-year-old has started just a fifth (22.2%) of Chelsea’s games this season, with his last start all the way back on 1 February.
While his numbers do not give for impressive reading, it has not been an easy season for the Englishman. The addition of Christian Pulisic has seen him play less, while he has been out of action on five different occasions this season – including through his contraction of COVID-19 in March.
For the local lad from Wandsworth, it has been a season to forget.
As fate would have it, Chelsea conclude their season in the Champions League against Bayern Munich – the club who were desperate to sign Hudson-Odoi. The long-winded transfer saga ended in the Blues’ favour, as they convinced him to sign a new five-year contract.
But the marks of Bayern’s interest remain visible, issuing a reminder of just how close he was to leaving the club he has been at since he was seven.
Saturday will be his previously long-awaited debut at the Allianz Arena, rather in his boyhood blue than Bavarian red. It seems appropriate that he will end his season with the Blues in Munich, as he looks to show Die Roten what they missed out on with a statement performance.
Hudson-Odoi is all but certain to start on Saturday, as Frank Lampard travels to Germany with an injury-blightened squad. Willian misses what could have been his final game for the club, while Pedro and Pulisic picked up season-ending injuries in the FA Cup Final defeat to Arsenal.
As Chelsea’s only fit winger, all eyes will be on Hudson-Odoi to perform.
Set to make just his second Champions League start, the pressure will be on to show what he is capable of. He will look towards his competition debut for inspiration, where he assisted the winning goal 11 minutes after coming off the bench. They were three points which helped Chelsea qualify for the knockout stages, and Hudson-Odoi will be keen to make a similar impact.
Saturday’s second leg at Bayern is significant for so many reasons. Chelsea need a miracle to overturn the three-goal deficit, against the team who won the double and have not lost a single game in 2020. The Blues need to look towards the spirit of 2012, where they won the Champions League against Bayern at the Allianz Arena.
But on top of its significance for Lampard’s side, Hudson-Odoi knows that this could be make or break for him.
An underwhelming season needs to have a grandstand finish, regardless of whether Chelsea progress to the quarter-finals. Hudson-Odoi has to show he has a serious claim to be in the first team next season, and that he does indeed have a future at Stamford Bridge under Lampard.
While Willian and Pedro are heading towards the exit door, competition for places in attack will become even fiercer with Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner’s arrivals. While both are versatile attackers, they are both apt wingers – a concerning reality for Hudson-Odoi.
It will be even harder for him to earn minutes next season, but if he can produce a strong performance in this final stage of the season, it will make Lampard think twice about what to do with the youngster. He needs to show that he still deserves to be playing regular football, while proving that he still has a part to play at the Bridge.
Whatever happens at the Allianz Arena, all eyes will be on Hudson-Odoi to see if he can end on a high. The pressure is on, but it is nothing that the exciting 19-year-old cannot overcome.