Two familiar teams that started their respective domestic seasons very differently, will face off again this season, in the group stages of the 2014/15 UEFA Champions League in London at the home of Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea football club. Chelsea are yet to drop points in their domestic campaign and with four wins out of four aided by the new Spanish duo in Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa, do sit pretty at the top of the Barclays Premier League table. The teams were placed in the same group last season with the Blues from England emerging victorious on both the occasions scoring 6 goals and conceding none. Jose Mourinho has already warned the German team of the attacking riches at his disposal, largely bolstered by the new arrivals, will be aiming for a winning start to his European campaign, unlike the previous season.
The Royal Blues as they are known, Schalke 04 has yet to win a competitive game in their domestic season will travel to London after an embarrassing 4-1 away defeat to Borussia Mönchengladbach thereby marking their worst start to a season in 46 years. The manager Jens Keller feels the game might have come at a wrong time as his side is hit with a long injury list and the poor form only adds insult to injury. The Royal Blues will require a good, solid performance on Wednesday as they know only too well that the Blues will punish any mistakes after Jens Keller’s side lost 3-0 there last season, despite an encouraging start to the game.
Chelsea have got a large squad and rotation can be expected as Jose Mourinho will be looking to rest some of his senior players, say John Terry could start on the bench with Ivanovic getting the nod at center-back. New recruit Felipe Luis could make his debut at left back for the blues while Azpilicueta could move to his more natural right-back role. Star-men Diego Costa and Eden Hazard will be assessed prior to the game as they are deemed doubtful to start due to hamstring issues.
Jens Keller will have to assemble his strongest makeshift side to get a result, as his team could be missing a few crucial players due to injuries. Several first team players such as Farfan (Knee), Felipe Santana (Groin), Kolasinac (Knee) are injured and out of contention to face Chelsea. While Draxler will need assessment, he should be able to start the game, after suffering a minor thigh strain in his previous outing.
Chelsea: Courtois; Azpilicueta, Cahill, Ivanovic, Luis; Ramires, Matic, Fabregas; Willian, Hazard, Costa
Schalke: Fährmann, Clemems, Ayan, Höwedes, Aogo, Neustädter, Boateng, Draxler, Huntelaar, Sam, Choupo-Moting
• Chelsea’s overall record against Bundesliga opponents is W9 D4 L4. They overcame FC Bayern München in the 2011/12 UEFA Champions League final, winning 4-3 on penalties after a 1-1 draw, but lost 5-4 on spot kicks after a 2-2 draw when they met in the UEFA Super Cup in August 2013.
• The win last November extended Chelsea’s home record against German visitors to seven games without defeat (six wins, one draw); they have never lost at home to a Bundesliga club.
• Schalke’s 2-0 win at Arsenal FC in the 2012/13 group stage, with Klaas-Jan Huntelaar on target, was their first on English soil after four defeats and a draw.
• Last year’s Stamford Bridge game was Schalke’s only defeat in their last eight away UEFA Champions League group fixtures; they have won four and drawn three of the others. They recorded a win and a draw in their other group away games 12 months ago.
Nemanja Matic – Chelsea
Nemanja Matic is one of those players that every team in Europe would love to have in their side. Industrious while at the same time composed and willing to do the dirty work for the team, he is an asset for Chelsea and very much a Jose Mourinho player that often gives his more expansive teammates in Hazard and Oscar the license to fire, while he would slot himself beside the two center-halves preventing goals from counter-attacks. He could be pivotal for the side in containing the possible threat caused by the movement of Draxler and of course his ability to smell danger before anyone can, should be enough to get Chelsea a third win on the trot against their opponents.
Julian Draxler – Schalke 04
Julian Draxler could actually be playing in England now, albeit for another London side in Arsenal had they been able to get their once transfer target. The move never materialized and Draxler looks to have moved on and will be looking to showcase his abilities to justify his billing come Wednesday at Stamford Bridge when his side will take on Chelsea, again. Without another potential attacking threat in Farfan who is out on long-term, the 20-year old will have to step up and take responsibility alongside Boateng and Huntelaar as the team’s primary source of goals. His movement and the tenacity to take players on and play in a few positions in the midfield will be key going into this game and give the travelling fans something to shout.
There is little doubt in the fact that Schalke will give it a good go and take the game to their opponents. But Chelsea at home is as tough as any fixture a side could face and at the moment with the form they’re in, the blues look like they’d have too much quality in their ranks for an injury-hit Schalke to deal with and get away unscathed.
Chelsea 3-1 Schalke 04