After Chelsea’s disappointing 3-2 defeat at Stoke on Saturday, this midweek Champions League match against Group E wooden spooners Steaua Bucharest could come as a welcome distraction. But Jose Mourinho’s men won’t be able to take things too easy against the Romanians because, despite being assured of a place in the knockout stages, the Blues need a result to ensure they finish top of the group.
And ending at the top of the Group E tree could be crucial if they are to go far in the tournament as it would mean they would avoid other group winners in the next round, teams that will include Bayern Munich (barring a miracle for Man City when they visit Bavaria), Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona (who should finish the job against Celtic to top Group H).
Of course, the home side should win this one with ease given Steaua have managed to score just two goals in the group so far (both against Basel with whom they drew 1-1 home and away). Chelsea also won 4-0 when visiting Bucharest, two goals from Ramires, one from Frank Lampard and an own goal from Daniel Georgievski making it a straightforward victory. And we don’t expect anything less at the Bridge.
The sides met in the round of 16 stage of the Europa League last season, and Chelsea didn’t make it easy for themselves. They lost the first leg 1-0 in Romania and after taking the lead in the home leg, Steaua equalised, sending shockwaves through the Stamford Bridge crowd. But second half goals from John Terry and Fernando Torres (he does score sometimes!) sent Chelsea on their path to Europa League glory.
On Saturday the Blues created enough chances to have put the game to bed, but their profligacy gave Mark Hughes’ Stoke side the belief they could get something from the match. And so it turned out, with goals from Peter Crouch, Stephen Ireland and a cracker from Oussama Assaidi earning the three points for the home side despite a fine brace from Andre Schurrle.
Mourinho was frustrated with his side’s lack of precision in front of goal, but also at the fact they had conceded three goals for the second match in succession. One of Chelsea’s major strengths over recent years has been their strong defence and the fact they have been somewhat leaky of late will be a major cause for concern for the manager (and the fans), especially with a trip to the Emirates coming up before Christmas.
As such we expect a clean sheet to be high on Mourinho’s wish list here, along with a few goals of course. With a hectic fixture schedule ahead, the Portuguese boss is likely to shuffle his deck and let some of the second string stretch their legs, but we fancy a comfortable victory for Chelsea as they progress as group winners.
LCN Verdict: Chelsea to win 3-0