It’s match day 5, and unlike Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, PSG, Porto and Borussia Dortmund, Chelsea have not been able to book their tickets to the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League yet.
On Tuesday they face FC Schalke in Germany, now under the helm of a new manager, Roberto Di Matteo, the man who won Chelsea’s only Champions League during his short tenure as interim manager after Andre Villas-Boas was sacked. A win would guarantee Chelsea’s participation in the last 16, while a loss would make the last match against Sporting CP a nail-biting encounter.
TEAM NEWS, INJURY UPDATES AND SUSPENSIONS
With Diego Costa now fully fit according to Jose Mourinho, and Loic Remy back from his groin injury, it will be interesting to see if Jose Mourinho opts to rest Costa and provide Remy and Drogba some playing time, or does he stick to his best possible starting line-up to make sure of qualification on Tuesday night.
With the whole squad available for selection, apart from Nathan Ake, Mourinho might also use this as an opportunity to give Ramires, Mohamed Salah and Andre Schurrle some vital minutes on the pitch. Filipe Luis may play in the left back position instead of Cesar Azpilicueta, as has been the norm in the Champions League matches so far, while Schurrle may start in place of Willian.
Schalke will be without talented midfielder Julian Draxler, who is out with a thigh injury. However, Joel Matip and Felipe Santana are back from injury, as both returned against Schalke’s victory over Wolfsburg on Saturday. Kevin-Prince Boateng and Klaas-Jun Huntelaar are unlikely to be rested although both are just one yellow card away from suspension.
Chelsea kept the juggernaut rolling in the Premier League with another dominant display against West Bromwich Albion in the weekend. And with a lead of 7 points over second-placed Southampton, the domestic competition looks one sided with each passing week. In the Champions League, however, Chelsea have already drawn 2 out of 4 matches. With one draw against Schalke at home and another at Maribor, Chelsea have not been able to emulate their domestic form in Europe. But with Diego Costa now fit to play in Europe again, Chelsea look odds on favourites to win the match.
Schalke sits 7th in the German Bundesliga table with 17 points, 13 points behind league leaders Bayern Munich. With three wins and three losses from their last 6 matches in all competitions, Schalke are enduring a topsy-turvy run of form. Their last match was a hard fought 3-2 victory against in-form Wolfsburg, where Wolfsburg almost made a stunning comeback after conceding 3 goals in the first 25 minutes. But with a draw at Stamford Bridge in the first leg, Schalke already have the know-how to get under Chelsea’s nerves. Also, with Roberto Di Matteo’s knowledge of most of the Chelsea squad, Schalke might create problems for Chelsea.
New Schalke manager Roberto Di Matteo is the only person to have won a UEFA Champions League in a period of only 3 months after being appointed as manager of Chelsea. Chelsea won their only Champions League title under Roberto Di Matteo, along with the FA Cup in the year 2012. In the next season Di Matteo was sacked in November, after his failure to take Chelsea through to the last 16 of the Champions League. Chelsea have played away to Schalke only 2 times before, with one match drawn and the other won by Chelsea.
LAST HEAD TO HEAD
Chelsea 1-1 FC Schalke 17/09/2014
PREDICTED STARTING LINE UPS
Chelsea: Courtois(GK), Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry(C), Luis, Matic, Fabregas, Hazard, Oscar, Schurrle, Costa
FC Schalke: Fahrmann(GK), Uchida, Howedes(C), Nuestadter, Fuchs, Hoger, Aogo, Obasi, Boateng, Choupo-Moting, Huntelaar
FC Schalke 1-2 Chelsea
TIME: 1945 GMT / 0115 IST
REFEREE: Jonas Eriksson (Sweden)
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Edited By: Vikram Vadiganeni