The Champions League is approaching the defining period of the group stages and Group G is a tight group, with all four teams having a chance of qualification. Chelsea are the favourites to top the group after collecting 8 points from their opening four matches, and a win this week would clinch qualification, but they face a tough trip to Germany to face Schalke. Although the Germans haven’t enjoyed a great start to their campaign, they have a lot of talented players, who could inflict damage on the Premier League leaders. The main talking point going into this match is that Chelsea will be facing Roberto Di Matteo, the man who won the Champions League during his short tenure with the Blues. The Italian replaced Jens Keller recently, and will be hoping to reinvent his career after nearly two years out of the game.
The Germans have a lot of talented players, with the likes of Max Meyer, Klaas Jan-Huntelaar and Kevin Prince Boateng having the ability to cause all sides problems over ninety minutes. The continuing injury problems of Julian Draxler are a huge concern for Di Matteo as the midfielder could be the player to bring Schalke’s season back on track, but he remains unavailable to the Italian. At the weekend, Schalke beat Wolfsburg 3-2, which will provide a huge lift to the side, who have been poor in recent months. Di Matteo is a defensive minded coach and over time, the Bundesliga side should see an improvement at the back.
Meanwhile Chelsea come into this match still unbeaten in all competitions this season, showing that they will come to Germany with plenty of confidence and expecting to win. Their last match in the Champions League saw them drop points against Maribor away, showing that away from home, they are less effective. Unlike Maribor, Schalke have the players to worry Chelsea, and they could become the first team to get three points from the Blues, if the English side aren’t careful. Mourinho is likely to call upon the likes of Diego Costa, Cesc Fabregas and Eden Hazard, and if they play well, Chelsea should clinch qualification this week.
In their previous meeting in the group, the match ended 1-1. Cesc Fabregas scored for Chelsea, while Dutch international Klass Jan-Huntelaar equalised in the second half. They were in the same group last season two, and the meeting in Germany ended in a 3-0 win for Chelsea.
Both teams have scored in all four of Schalke’s matches in the Champions League this season, which suggests there will be goals on Tuesday in Germany.
Chelsea have only conceded two goals in this season’s Champions League, highlighting their defensive strength and organisation.
The striker looks to have settled in well at Schalke after joining the club on a free transfer. He score two goals at the weekend, taking his season’s tally to six in all competitions. He joined the club from Mainz, and it looks to be a great transfer as he complements Klaas Jan-Huntelaar well. He is known for his impressive finishing, while he can also cause trouble by running at defenders as his pace and strength make him a handful to defend again. Also he can pose a threat from set pieces, due to his height. This week, Chelsea maybe looking at the likes of Meyer, Huntelaar and Boateng, all of whom are well known to English clubs, which may leave Choupo-Moting open to make an impact as he did at the weekend.
Eden Hazard has started to become more consistent for the Blues, making an impact in matches more frequently. He was brilliant against West Brom at the weekend, scoring a goal and causing havoc all afternoon. The main complaint people have had about the Belgian, is that he doesn’t do as well away from Stamford Bridge. This fixture gives him the perfect platform in an away match, as Schalke are likely to be defensive, especially with Di Matteo as manager, therefore Hazard will be given space to run at defenders, which is when he is at his most dangerous. The likes of Fabregas and Costa have taken the attention away from the attacking midfielder, but Hazard will be keen to show he remains the stand out player in this Chelsea side.
Julian Draxler will be missing, but Joel Matip and Felipe Santana are available again for the Germans. He is likely to play two up front with Choupo-Moting and Huntelaar. The Dutchman and Boateng are both a booking away from a suspension, so they will both have to be careful against Chelsea.
Only Nathan Ake is missing for Chelsea, which means it should be a full strength Chelsea side heading to Germany. Mourinho may opt to rotate a little bit with the likes of Andre Schurrle, Ramires and Loic Remy pushing for a start. Diego Costa, Cesc Fabregas, Eden Hazard and Oscar are all set to start, which will mean a very offensive Chelsea side will line up in Germany on Tuesday.
I expect Chelsea to clinch qualification with a victory over the manager who led them to their first and only Champions League title to date. It’s likely to be a lively affair as Di Matteo will get his players up for the match, while their confidence will be high after winning at the weekend. However the Chelsea attack is so potent and Schalke have been vulnerable at the back this season. The likes of Hazard, Oscar and Fabregas can create chances at will, and when you have Diego Costa in front of such creative talent, goals are all but guaranteed.