Chelsea vs Schalke: Match Preview and Prediction
As the UEFA Champions League commences this season, Chelsea starts its European campaign against Bundes Liga outfit Schalke 04 on Wednesday at Stamford Bridge. Last season too Chelsea had drawn Schalke 04 in their group, beating them both home and away.
Having come so close to the Champions League Final last season, Chelsea were knocked out by eventual runners-up Atletico Madrid. This season, however, Chelsea have high hopes for their European adventure with new additions Diego Costa, Thibaut Courtois and Filipe Luis from the same Atletico team that had knocked Chelsea out last season.
Last season Chelsea faced Schalke away at first, winning 3-0, courtsey a double from now Milan man Fernando Torres and a goal from Eden Hazard. At Stamford Bridge, it was 3-0 again, this time the double from Samuel Eto’o and a late goal from Demba Ba. Apart from Hazard, all the scorers from this fixture of last season have moved on to other clubs, and the responsibility of scoring goals is totally on the shoulders of star striker Diego Costa, a responsibility he has been enjoying in some style.
Diego Costa pulled out of the Spain squad for their Euro 2016 qualifier against Macedonia with a hamstring problem but he wreaked havoc against Swansea at Stamford Bridge.
He scored his first hat-trick for the club and now already has seven goals in just four matches. In this kind of ominous form, Costa will be looking to score his first goal in Europe for his new club. Also, another new signing, Cesc Fabregas has already notched up 6 assists in 4 games. This partnership will be vital if Chelsea are to land silverware this season, especially in Europe.
Another aspect worth considering is that Nemanja Matic will be available to Chelsea this season having been cup-tied in the Champions League last season as he had already represented Benfica in the group stages before Chelsea signed him in January. His towering presence in midfield along with his ability to win the ball back from the opposition with well-timed tackles will go a long way in bettering Chelsea’s European form this season.
Having handed Thibaut Courtois four starts in as many matches in the Premier League, Jose Mourinho may opt to go with Petr Cech considering his experience of European nights.
Another positive for Chelsea is newcomer Loic Remy, who may find it hard to see his name in the starting line-up with the form Costa is in, scored only few minutes after coming on from the bench against Swansea. And should Jose want to modify the formation to 4-4-2, he may start alongside Costa. Left back Filipe Luis could also be handed his full home debut on Wednesday.
Schalke 04 will be coming to Stamford Bridge with a pretty dismal record, having failed to score a single goal against Chelsea in all four previous meetings. Young and talented Julian Draxler, an Arsenal target for some time now, will be looking to impress against his potential future cross-town rivals. Also, experienced striker Klaas-Jun Huntelaar, also an Arsenal and Liverpool target, might create difficulties in the Chelsea defence.
Predicted Starting Line-up: Cech, Azpilicueta, Cahill, Terry, Luis, Fabregas, Matic, Hazard, Ramires, Willian, Costa
Predicted Score: Chelsea 2-0 Schalke 04