Premier League leaders Chelsea travel to Lisbon to resume their Champions League campaign after a comprehensive 3-0 home win over Aston Villa. The Blues will have been disappointed to have dropped 2 points after a 1-1 draw against Schalke at home in their previous Champions League game and should be determined to get their first victory come Tuesday. History suggests they could do so, as Chelsea managed to win the last 6 games against Portuguese sides and all by a 1-goal margin.
Sporting Lisbon were held at Maribor after a stoppage time leveller from Luka Zahovic, cancelling out on-loan Nani’s 80th minute goal. Sporting themselves boast a good record against English sides as they have won their last three home games against English visitors without conceding a goal. The only defeat in nine such contests (W7 D1) was Manchester United’s 1-0 victory in the 2007/08 group stage. Their long unbeaten home run in the competition will be put to test when they face Tuesday’s opponents Chelsea. They managed a draw in their last Liga game, their fifth of the season, against FC Porto, a week after registering their biggest away win of the season against Gil Vicente FC.
Rami Rabia, who joined Sporting in the summer from al-Ahly SC in his native Egypt, is yet to make his debut. He has been sidelined since sustaining an abdominal injury on 30 August.
In form striker Diego Costa could start on the bench again as the player isn’t deemed fully fit enough by manager Jose Mourinho to play two games a week and Loic Remy is widely expected to lead the line on Tuesday. Ramires will also need to be assessed before the game as the Brazilian midfielder had to sit out in their league victory over Aston Villa.
- The 2013/14 Portuguese Liga runners-up Sporting Lisbon are unbeaten in 16 European home games − 13 wins, three draws − since a 2-0 loss to Brøndby IF in the 2010/11 UEFA Europa League play-offs.
- This is their sixth group stage campaign and the first since 2008/09, when they reached the last 16 for the first time.
- Current Chelsea boss José Mourinho worked at Sporting as assistant to coach Sir Bobby Robson for one and a half seasons between 1992 and 1993. He later became head coach at Benfica, leaving after a 3-0 home win over Sporting in 2001, and also coached UD Leiria and Porto, never losing a match against Sporting (W4 D2).
- This is Chelsea’s 13th group stage campaign and 12th in a row.
Nani – Sporting Lisbon
Nani looks to have revived his career in his home country after a move back to his boyhood club Sporting Lisbon and has already got himself on the score-sheet after scoring in the opening game of the group stage against Maribor. Despite the underwhelming result, a 1-1 draw in their previous game, Nani on a personal level seemed satisfied and will already be looking forward to make a telling contribution again, this time against familiar opponents, Chelsea. As one of the more experienced members of the squad in the European scene, there is little doubt that he could be the man that is counted on by the manager and fellow teammates to deliver the goods in the biggest of games.
Cesc Fabregas – Chelsea
Like Nani, Fabregas opened the scoring for Chelsea that was eventually cancelled out by Huntelaar in the second half, which means the Blues had to settle for a stalemate in their previous European encounter. Cesc Fabregas has been a Champions League regular for almost a decade now, having already played in the competition for giant footballing sides in Arsenal and Barcelona in the past and now for the 2012 winners Chelsea. Settling in the side was never an issue as the player has already racked up a few assists in the league as expected, finding an able forward in Costa, with the duo forming a deadly Spanish-laden partnership. Sporting’s midfielders will no doubt be instructed by manager Silva to keep him at bay and much of the game’s outcome will be decided by the battle between Cesc Fabregas and William Carvalho and who comes out on top.
Both teams will be aiming to get their first win of the competition after disappointing draws, which will ensure an interesting and a more open game. Though Sporting looks to have a thing for draws – they have drawn 5 games this season already – this game, by the looks of it, will see a winner. Jose Mourinho might not field their strongest 11 as they will have to face rivals Arsenal at home, in 4 days time, another game they will not want to lose, which makes me go for a Sporting Lisbon win on Tuesday. And a narrow victory at that.