Chelsea get their Champions League campaign underway on Wednesday night as they welcome Schalke to Stamford Bridge. The German side are second seeds in Group G, so they should be the biggest threat to Chelsea within this group, although on home soil Jose Mourinho’s men will be confident they can start their campaign with a win.
These two sides actually met last season at this stage, with Chelsea winning both games 3-0 en route to winning the group, finishing ahead of second placed Schalke. Mourinho will be hoping for a similar result as the Blues look to stamp their authority on this group early. The Pensioners lost 2-1 at home in their opener last season against Basel, so a better start is needed this time around.
Chelsea will be glad that they’re facing a Schalke side who are in awful form. They’re third from bottom in the Bundesliga after taking just one point from their first three games, and they’ve already been knocked out of the German Cup. Schalke should be an easy three points to get the group underway, especially given how they’ve started the season.
The Blues are top of the Premier League with four wins from four, and they’ve hit 15 goals in those four games. They look on course to win their first Premier League title in five years next May, but they’ll be looking for European progress too. Having made the semi-finals last year, they’ll be looking for at least a repeat of that after strengthening their squad in the summer.
The Blues have a fully fit group coming in to this one, after Diego Costa got over his hamstring woes in time to hit a hat-trick against Swansea on Saturday. It remains to be seen just how Chelsea will line up for this one, as Mourinho may go for the 4-3-3 formation he prefers for big games. That formation was the one Mourinho picked in the meetings with Schalke last season, so he could well repeat that here.
Ramires came on at half time against Swansea, and he may come in to join Nemanja Matic and Cesc Fabregas in a three man midfield. Costa and Eden Hazard would then be joined by one of Andre Schurrle or Willian, and it’s likely to be the later. Costa, Fabregas, Filipe Luis and Thibaut Courtois are all in line to make their European debuts for the club.
The Germans have no injury concerns coming in to this game either, so they’ll have a full squad to pick from for their visit to Stamford Bridge. That shouldn’t be too much of a worry for the Blues, who should still manage a win here. Their Champions League group isn’t the most difficult, and a win here would really set them up for a simple march towards the knockout stages.
LCN Verdict: Chelsea to win 3-0