Chelsea can seal qualification for the Champions League knockout stages if they beat Roma and other results go their way on Tuesday night.
The Group C rivals meet at the Stadio Olimpico to conclude the second half of their double header, having previously shared the points in a thrilling 3-3 Stamford Bridge draw on October 18.
Edin Dzeko and Eden Hazard scored two goals apiece in the six-goal spectacle, though both Eusebio Di Francesco and Antonio Conte will be keen on defensive improvements in Rome.
Chelsea currently top the group with seven points from three games, and can qualify for the last-16 with two games to spare if Atletico Madrid fail to beat Qarabag in the Spanish capital on Halloween.
Roma host Chelsea at the Stadio Olimpico with kick-off scheduled for 7.45pm on Tuesday, October 31.
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Victory tonight for Antonio Conte’s men would guarantee progress to the knockout phase whatever the outcome of the Atletico and Qarabag game, thanks to a five-point cushion over the Madrid club. Chelsea travel in confident mood.
Second-placed Roma will be aiming to buck a trend of their three wins in 18 matches in this competition, hoping to assume leadership of Group C. Even at Stadio Olimpico they have not been strong: of the past eight Champions League matches there, including qualifiers, the Giallorossi have won one and lost four.
Yet the Londoners have only beaten Italian opponents on their own soil once previously, and have lost on the last three visits. The sole success probably made the Blues very popular with tonight’s home supporters. It was the stylish 4-0 thrashing of their deadly rivals, Lazio, with whom they share the Olimpico, in November 2003.
Until recently Italians celebrated All Saints’ Day on 1 November rather than Hallowe’en the night before. So will it be ‘dolcetto’ (little sweet) or ‘scherzetto’ (little trick) for the hosts when Chelsea come knocking tonight?
Antonio Conte’s side have won seven of the past eight away games in all competitions.
This evening’s hosts kicked off at home to Bologna two hours later on Saturday than the Blues did at Bournemouth, and won by the same margin. Chelsea’s first clean sheet since the 4-0 at Stoke on 23 September may have appealed to the head coach ahead of this return to his homeland almost as much as the Eden Hazard goal that earned yet another vital away victory.
It is nine years since the west Londoners’ last trip to the banks of the Tiber, only Carlo Cudicini (substitute goalkeeper then, assistant to the coach now) remains of those who made the journey from Stamford Bridge to play Roma on that occasion.
However there is plenty of personal experience of the fierce Roma welcome in the club ranks, not least in a former Juventus player and head coach, a defender in Toni Rudiger who spent two season there, and others such as Alvaro Morata, Marcos Alonso and Davide Zappacosta who visited as Serie A rivals. Two-and-a-half years ago Alonso scored in a 3-0 Europa League win there for Fiorentina.
Conte will hope his team play with the same control as Saturday at Bournemouth but more ruthlessness. A draw would be far from disastrous but a defeat would complicate Group C after a good start to the campaign.
PREDICTION: CHELSEA 2 – 0 Roma (Goal Scorers: Eden Hazard and Alvaro Morata)