Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang axed from Chelsea’s Champions League squad to make room for new signings

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been left out of Chelsea’s Champions League squad to make room for new signings.

Chelsea signed eight players in January but Champions League rules meant the Blues could only include three new recruits in their squad for the knockout stages.

British transfer record signing Enzo Fernandez has been included, along with forwards Mykhailo Mudryk and Joao Felix.

That left no room for any of Chelsea’s other January signings - David Datro Fofana, Noni Madueke, Andrey Santos, Gabriel Slonina and Benoit Badiashile.

Although Jorginho left Chelsea for Arsenal on deadline day, freeing up a spot in the squad, another player from Chelsea’s initial list still had to be omitted - resulting in Aubameyang’s absence. Chelsea play Borussia Dortmund, Aubameyang’s former team, in the last-16.

Remarkably, Aubamayang is Chelsa’s only fit striker but Felix, who is on loan from Atletico Madrid, has been preferred. It also means defender Badiashile, who has impressed in his first two starts for the club, is not included.

Aubameyang joined Chelsea from Barcelona on deadline day last August but the former Arsenal captain has faced a difficult return to the Premier League.

The 33-year-old scored in three consecutive matches in October - including home and away against AC Milan in the Champions League group stages - but has not found the target since. After being signed by Thomas Tuchel, the Gabon international lost his place under new manager Graham Potter.

Chelsea spent over £300m in the January transfer window in an unprecedented spree. Potter admitted on Thursday that he faced a challenging situation keeping his squad happy, with 33 first-team players on the books at Stamford Bridge.

“Challenge is the right word,” said Potter. “I’m certainly not complaining about it. It’s exciting. It’s a test for me, of course, and for the staff, but it’s an exciting one.

“We’ve got a lot of really good players. We have to create an environment where there’s healthy competition and they can push each other, but at the same time understand that there’s going to be frustration at times, because only 11 can play. That’s how it is.

“We’ve got a lot of important games, and we need to improve our results. It’s about playing, about supporting the team and being ready to play.”

Fernandez, Mudryk and Felix are all available to play despite featuring for other teams in the Champions League already this season. There is also a place in the squad for Hakim Ziyech, despite the Morocco international being denied a move to Paris Saint-Germain on deadline day.

Chelsea’s Champions League squad (List A)

Goalkeepers: Kepa Arrizabalaga, Marcus Bettinell, Edouard Mendy

Defenders: Thiago Silva, Trevoh Chalobah, Ben Chilwell, Reece James, Kalidou Koulibaly, Cesar Azpilicueta, Marc Cucurella, Wesley Fofana

Midfielders: Enzo Fernandez, N’Golo Kante, Mateo Kovacic, Christian Pulisic, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Raheem Sterling, Mason Mount, Denis Zakaria, Hakim Ziyech, Conor Gallagher, Carney Chukwuemeka

Forwards: Joao Felix, Mykhailo Mudryk, Kai Havertz