Sunderland v Chelsea Preview (Premier League) – 29th November 2014

Chelsea head to Sunderland, the last side to beat them in the Premier League, looking to extend their unbeaten start to the season. A 2-1 defeat to the Black Cats in April shattered Chelsea’s title chances, and ended Jose Mourinho’s unbeaten home league record.

The meetings with Sunderland at the Stadium of Light proved crucial too, with the Blues winning 4-3 in the league and losing 2-1 after extra time in the Capital One Cup, despite leading for most of the game. After those two results, Mourinho decided to adopt a more defensive approach, which got his side back in the title race.

This weekend’s game is just as crucial, with second facing third on Sunday, when Manchester City travel to Southampton. At least one of those sides are going to drop points, meaning a win here could further enhance the advantage the league leaders hold. This also kicks off an important week for Chelsea, with three games in the next seven days, including two trips up to the North East.

After the trip to Sunderland, the Blues return home for a game against rivals London Tottenham, before they are off up north again to face Newcastle at St James’ Park. With three games in such a short space of time, including some pretty big journeys, we might be seeing a little squad rotation over the next week.

If there is some rotation, it’ll probably come later in the week. Mourinho is likely to keep faith with much of the side that started against Schalke and which put on such an impressive performance. Diego Costa limped off during that game, but the manager said he expects the Spaniard to be fit again for the weekend’s match.

The midfield five is unlikely to change, with Willian on the right the only one not guaranteed a start. Given his fantastic performance on Wednesday night, it’s hard to see Mourinho dropping him for an out-of-form Andre Schurrle. Eden Hazard, Oscar, Nemanja Matic and Cesc Fabregas should all keep their places for this one.

Chelsea have changed their regular back line just once this season, so expect to see the similar faces of John Terry, Gary Cahill, Branislav Ivanovic and Cesar Azpilicueta start ahead of Thibaut Courtois. We could see the likes of Filipe Luis come in for either of the full backs over the next week, but Azpilicueta is likely to start here.

As for Sunderland, they’re likely to be without former Chelsea man Patrick Van Aanholt and ex-Juventus midfielder Emanuele Giaccherini. The Black Cats are 14th in the table, just three points above the drop zone, and they’ve drawn over half their league games so far. This game is another test of how the Blues cope against sides who defend deep, while it kicks off the start of a crazy month, with 10 games coming between this and New Year’s Day. While the squad should be used to playing twice a week, it will be interesting to see how they cope with that many games.

LCN Verdict: Chelsea to win 2-0

Schalke 0-5 Chelsea Match Report – 25th November 2014

Chelsea hammered a limp Schalke side at the Veltins Arena to confirm their place in the last 16 as group winners. The Blues went ahead early on through John Terry, and Willian doubled the lead. Jan Kirchhoff put the ball in his own net late in the first half before Didier Drogba and Ramires added gloss to the win in the second period.

It’s fair to say that many didn’t expect such an easy game beforehand, with this being seen as a tough task for Jose Mourinho’s men. They came up against former manager Roberto Di Matteo, with these sides fighting it out for top spot in the group. Schalke trailed Chelsea by three points before the game, and a win here would have put the Germans top.

Mourinho named his strongest possible side, and any pre-game worries were extinguished when Terry put the visitors ahead after just two minutes. Cesc Fabregas once again set it up, with Terry rising to head in the Spaniard’s corner. Their lead was doubled just before the half hour mark, when a fantastic flowing move was finished off by Willian, who was in sterling form.

The game was put beyond doubt just before half time, when Kirchoff summed up his side’s night by heading in to his own goal. That goal pretty much confirmed the three points for Chelsea, putting them through to the next round and giving them an uncatchable lead at the top. That was also the end for Kirchoff, as he was hauled off at half time by Di Matteo.

The second half was less action packed early on, with Diego Costa coming off just after the hour mark with an apparent leg injury. Given how he’s played in recent weeks, and his injury record, that was the first real moment of concern for the away faithful, but Mourinho confirmed after the game that Costa will be fit for the trip to Sunderland at the weekend.

Luckily Costa’s replacement Didier Drogba isn’t such a bad player (!), and he added the fourth goal for the Blues. Willian teed up the Ivorian to tap in to an empty net, less than 10 minutes after he came off the bench. Ramires fared even better than that, scoring just moments after coming on. He made an instant impact, heading in from Drogba’s cross to make it 5-0.

It was a result deserving of Chelsea’s performance, they completely outclassed the German side. Many of Europe’s best would struggle to live with the Premier League leaders playing like this, and on this form they could go further than last year’s semi final exit. One thing that will help that is topping the group, theoretically giving them an easier tie in the next round. They’ll be glad to have secured that with a game to spare, so they can focus elsewhere during December.

LCN Man of the Match: Willian

Schalke v Chelsea preview (Champions League) – 25th November 2014

Chelsea face a crunch Champions League tie against their former manager Roberto Di Matteo on Tuesday night. The Blues know a result in Germany will see them qualify as group winners, but they face a difficult task against a Schalke side who are scrapping for their lives in this competition.

Schalke are just a point ahead of Sporting, who face Maribor at home. They know their chances of progressing rest on getting a result against Chelsea, with Sporting likely to get a win. The Pensioners could have all but wrapped up their place in the next round in the last game against Maribor, but they could only get a point. That puts a lot of pressure on this game, as a defeat could leave them level on points with Schalke.

This group is very tight right now, and Jose Mourinho is likely to approach this one cautiously. The Blues may have won 3-0 here last season, but they’ll not be coming here looking to attack and play on the front foot. The away team will likely switch to a 4-5-1 formation.

Thibaut Courtois will keep his place in goal, while Mourinho will probably keep with the back four that kept a clean sheet against West Brom in their last game. Branislav Ivanovic, Gary Cahill and John Terry are all almost certain to start, while Cesar Azpilicueta should shade it ahead of Filipe Luis on recent form.

In midfield we’re likely to see Nemanja Matic and Cesc Fabregas keep their places, and be joined by Ramires in the middle. This gives the Chelsea back four more protection from their midfield, with Ramires and Matic sitting just in front of the defence. This is a tactic that we’ve seen Mourinho adopt in most big games, including the win at Liverpool in the Blues’ last away game.

Eden Hazard will keep his place on the left wing, while we could see Oscar move out on to the right. The Brazilian is in such good form he’s hard to drop, but it’s unlikely that Chelsea will play with an attacking midfielder in Germany. Both Willian and Andre Schurrle have been tested out on that right hand side this season, but Mourinho doesn’t seem to favour either one. Given Oscar’s recent performances and his work rate, he could be a good option out there.

Up front Chelsea should have Diego Costa available. The Spaniard missed his adopted country’s recent games, so with a two week break between the game at Liverpool and the weekend win over West Brom, he should be fit to start this week. Costa was missed in the draw at home to Schalke, and the Premier League leaders will certainly need him in Germany. Samuel Eto’o and Fernando Torres each bagged a brace against Schalke last year, and Mourinho will be hoping for similar from Costa this week.

LCN Verdict: 1-1 draw

Chelsea 2-0 West Brom Match Report – 22nd November 2014

Chelsea extended their advantage at the top of the Premier League with a comfortable win over West Brom at Stamford Bridge. Goals from Diego Costa and Eden Hazard in the first half sent the Blues on their way, and Claudio Yacob’s sending off in that period ended West Brom’s hopes. At that point the Blues looked set for a big win, but they had to settle for just the two goals.

There were doubts about the fitness of both Costa and Cesc Fabregas before the game, but both of those were fit enough to make the starting 11. Chelsea came in to this one having beaten West Brom just once in their last five meetings, but they showed from pretty early on that they’d have little trouble on the day.

West Brom packed defenders around Costa early on, but he broke the deadlock just over 10 minutes in to the game. He got on the end of a delivery from Oscar, and fired home to put the Blues in the lead. The Blues dominated the first half, with West Brom getting very little by the way of chances. The pressure paid off for the Blues, as they doubled their lead just 15 minutes later.

The Pensioners caught West Brom sleeping at a corner, and they were inventive enough to take advantage. Fabregas took the corner, played it quick and low to Hazard who was unmarked at the near post, and he looked up and slotted the ball low past Ben Foster. It was a fantastic piece of play, giving Chelsea a comfortable lead.

West Brom looked outclassed, and it got even worse for them towards the end of the first half, when Yacob was sent off for what looked like a two footed challenge on Costa. Yacob didn’t connect with the tackle, and the card was debatable, but from then on Chelsea looked assured of the win.

The Stamford Bridge faithful would have thought they were in for a few more goals in the second half, but it wasn’t to be. They controlled the game, but it fizzled out as the Blues began to make changes ahead of the Schalke game on Tuesday night. In the end the league leaders dominated it, having almost 75% of possession with Thibaut Courtois having just a single shot to face all day.

That win extended the Blues’ unbeaten record to 18 games in all competitions, and to 12 in the Premier League. Jose Mourinho’s men are now seven points clear of Southampton in second, with the Saints playing on Monday night, and they maintain their eight point lead over champions Manchester City. All in all it was a productive day for the home side, and they topped it off with a much needed clean sheet, which was only their sixth of the season so far.

LCN Man of the Match: Eden Hazard

Chelsea v West Brom Preview (Premier League) – 22nd November 2014

The Blues return from the international break with a chance to go seven points clear at the top of the Premier League table. Chelsea host West Brom on Saturday, with second placed Southampton not in action until Monday. But, in order to stretch their gap they’ll need to beat a West Brom side against whom they’ve struggled in recent times.

The Pensioners have taken just five points out of a possible 15 against West Brom in the last few meetings, winning just one of their last five. West Brom almost won this fixture last season, until a very dubious Eden Hazard penalty secured a 2-2 draw for Chelsea and kept Jose Mourinho’s unbeaten home record as Blues boss alive for a little longer. Given those performances, Chelsea will need to do a lot better this weekend if they’re to get their 10th win of the season.

Mourinho’s men will have many of their top players jetting back in from international duty, which could help West Brom here. The majority of the Chelsea side were in international action, and could come back slightly jaded. Despite that, the Blues currently have no injury problems, so they’ll have plenty of options for Saturday.

Thibaut Courtois should continue in goal, with the usual back four of Branislav Ivanovic, John Terry, Gary Cahill and Cesar Azpilicueta ahead of him. John Terry spent the break on holiday in Dubai, so he should be particularly well rested for this one.

In midfield, the first choice pairing of Cesc Fabregas and Nemanja Matic should start. Fabregas picked up an injury before the break which kept him out of the Spain squad, much to Mourinho’s delight, but he should be back in time for the West Brom game. Mourinho recently called Matic the team’s best player, which is high praise given the quality in the Chelsea squad.

Eden Hazard and Oscar should start in midfield, with Andre Schurrle likely to play wide on the right. Willian is another option there, but he’ll likely play in the Champions League next week instead. Other than him, it’s hard to see Mourinho resting anyone else, as he’ll be looking for more league points to maintain their impressive start.

Diego Costa also missed out on the Spain squad, with the player not selected by boss Vincente Del Bosque. Mourinho claimed to have no knowledge of why he was left out, but it’s likely his comments about the strikers’ injuries stemming from international duty played a part. After two weeks of training with the Blues, Costa should be fit enough to start here and in Schalke next week, and Costa would have certainly made a difference in that West Brom game last season.

Mourinho will be glad to have his first choice team available, and he’ll be looking to maintain that as the Blues approach the demanding Christmas period. First things first, he’ll be looking for three points against West Brom.

LCN Verdict: Chelsea to win 3-1

Chelsea’s November Blues

Coming up to the end of 2014, many point to the festive period and its wall to wall games as the crucial period of the season. It is widely recognised as the section of the campaign that will make or break a season, stretching even the most resilient squad to its limits. While Christmas time is crucial for a team’s season, for Chelsea in recent years, their big test has been November.

The Blues have experienced some tough times in the penultimate month of the year, suffering quite a few setbacks which have gone on to affect their season overall. Many say you can’t win the title in November, and that is of course true… but you can certainly lose it, and in Chelsea’s case that’s been evident in recent times. November is when teams turn good starts into strong seasons, and build up momentum for the tough Christmas run of games.

The problem for Chelsea is that they haven’t been doing that very well in the last few years. Between 2010 and 2013, the Blues have played 16 Premier League games in November, and they’ve picked up just 18 points out of a possible 48. Here we look at how the month has gone for Chelsea in the last five years, and ask what the Blues need to do ahead of their final fixtures of the month.

November 2009

  • Chelsea 1-0 Manchester United
  • Chelsea 4-0 Wolves
  • Arsenal 0-3 Chelsea

The 2009-10 season saw the Blues’ best November in recent years, winning all three Premier League games, including two big clashes, which helped them on their way to winning the Premier League title. The Blues also got great away results in the Champions League, drawing with Atletico and beating Porto. Those results helped them top their Champions League group, and Carlo Ancelotti ended 2009 in a commanding position in his first season at the club.

November 2010

  • Liverpool 2-0 Chelsea
  • Chelsea 1-0 Fulham
  • Chelsea 0-3 Sunderland
  • Birmingham 1-0 Chelsea
  • Newcastle 1-1 Chelsea

Fast forward a year, and Ancelotti’s position becomes less secure. A month that started with the Blues five points clear at the top of the Premier League ended with the Blues down to second. They won just one of their five games as they ruined their fantastic start to the season. Their three defeats that month accounted for a third of their defeats that season, and they finished nine points off champions Manchester United. Carlo Ancelotti’s position was in question from about November onwards, and he was sacked by May.

November 2011

  • Blackburn 0-1 Chelsea
  • Chelsea 1-2 Liverpool
  • Chelsea 3-0 Wolves

While this was one of the Blues’ better Novembers, it was a far from impressive month. The reign of Andre Villas Boas wasn’t a long one, and this month didn’t help his cause. The Blues recorded two wins out of three, but they were lucky that they faced two sides who were on their way to being relegated that season. They lost to Liverpool at home in the league and in the League Cup, while two poor Champions League results almost eliminated the Blues from Europe’s premier competition, just months before the 2012 win.

A draw at minnows Genk, followed by a defeat at Bayer Leverkusen had the Blues worrying for their place in the knockout round. Of course, they did make it through, but these results made them sweat. Fast forward to 2014 and a draw at the group’s lowest seeds followed by a trip to Germany is exactly what the Blues have this month, and they’ll need to do better when they go to Schalke.

November 2012

  • Swansea 1-1 Chelsea
  • Chelsea 1-1 Liverpool
  • West Brom 2-1 Chelsea
  • Chelsea 0-0 Man City
  • Chelsea 0-0 Fulham

Chelsea began life as European Champions well under Roberto Di Matteo, but they began to fade away. The Blues where stuttering in the league and in Europe, and after a 3-0 defeat at Juventus, Di Matteo was sacked. Rafa Benitez replaced him, but the Blues where unable to turn their form around in November. Their only win of the month came under Di Matteo, a 3-2 win at home to Shaktar Donetsk, with those two away goals ultimately eliminating them. The four draws in the league were almost half of the draws the Blues had across the season (nine), and the Blues ultimately finished third that season.

November 2013

  • Newcastle 2-0 Chelsea
  • Chelsea 2-2 West Brom
  • West Ham 0-3 Chelsea

In 2013, the month of November started with a disappointing defeat at Newcastle, and the Blues almost lost their unbeaten home record under Jose Mourinho against West Brom. A highly dubious last minute penalty helped the Blues to a 2-2 draw, but this was the first sign of the troubles against smaller opposition that plagued them last season. The month was rounded out with an impressive 3-0 win over West Ham, and the Blues have continued in that vein.

This season’s November hasn’t been so bad for the Blues and they have beaten QPR and Liverpool in the league and they drew at Maribor. The win over Liverpool in their last game was the first good performance of the month, and the Blues will hope to maintain that in their last three games.

They face three crucial matches this month, against opposition that could prove extremely difficult. Next up for the Blues is West Brom, who they’ve beaten just once in their last five meetings. After that, they face a must-not-lose game against Schalke in the Champions League, against former boss Di Matteo. The Blues wrap up the month with a trip to Sunderland, to whom they’ve lost in their last two meetings.

While the Blues have a big advantage going into November, they also had one back in 2010. A Mourinho side is unlikely to lose a lead like Ancelotti’s did, but the Blues need to be focused for the rest of this month if they are to kick and get themselves into an unassailable lead in the title race. They currently look on course to win at least one trophy this season, and they’ll have a much better chance of doing that with a good finish to November.

Liverpool 1-2 Chelsea Match Report – 8th November 2014

Chelsea came from behind at Anfield to secure a win over Liverpool and to keep their advantage at the top of the Premier League. Emre Can’s deflected shot gave the hosts the lead, but Gary Cahill got the Blues back level. Diego Costa scored his first goal since returning from injury in the second half to put the Blues ahead, and they held out to record back to back wins at Anfield.

The Blues started with many of their big stars back after they were rested in midweek. Thibaut Courtois, Gary Cahill and Cesar Azpilicueta came in to the side, while Ramires came in for Andre Schurrle to give the Blues a bit more solidity in midfield. Diego Costa returned up front, replacing Didier Drogba as the Blues looked to maintain their unbeaten run.

Liverpool caused a storm by resting several players at Real Madrid in midweek, but they looked better for it as they started the stronger of the two teams. Liverpool where ahead within 10 minutes, as Emre Can was allowed too much space outside the box, and his shot took a huge deflection off Gary Cahill, which left Courtois helpless to stop it.

Cahill made up for that just five minutes later, as he helped to get the Blues back level. Cesc Fabregas swung in a corner, and Cahill got on the end of Costa’s flick. Goal line technology was needed, and it showed that the ball did indeed cross the line, levelling up the scores.

The Blues pressed for most of the second half, but they were unable to find a way through the Liverpool back line. Chelsea continued to be the better side in the second half, and they finally went ahead over an hour into the game. Azpilicueta, who was in inspired form at left back, went for a run down the left flank and got free after some great work. The Spaniard got himself into a crossing position and saw his centre palmed away by Mignolet and fall right to Costa. The Spaniard lashed home to grab his 10th goal of the season.

Jose Mourinho clearly went for a different approach than he had for the games at the Manchester clubs, as he didn’t make any changes after going ahead. Didier Drogba and Filipe Luis came on in added time for Eden Hazard and Costa, but Mikel was left on the bench.

Liverpool were unable to really force a chance towards the end, and it was a much more comfortable finish than at either City or United. The Blues have already travelled to four of last season’s top seven and it’s only November. This win opened up a 15 point gap between Chelsea and Liverpool, with the Reds down in mid-table, and sees the Blues picking up their ninth win from 11 league games, which is very ominous for the other sides hoping to have a run at the title.

LCN Man of the Match: Cesar Azpilicueta

Liverpool v Chelsea Preview (Premier League) – 8th November 2014

The Blues head to Anfield on Saturday lunchtime looking to repeat the fantastic 2-0 win they earned there last season, and looking to maintain their unbeaten start to the season. With the Blues kicking off almost five hours before Manchester City, they can once again heap pressure on their main title rivals by going nine points clear of them.

Chelsea’s win at Anfield last season was one of their biggest results of the season, and it was done with a second string side. Jose Mourinho rested many of his stars with Atletico Madrid coming to the Bridge in the Champions League just a few days later, not dissimilar to what the Liverpool boss did this week.

The Blues will need a much improved performance from their draw in the Champions League with Maribor, and we’ll likely see a much changed side after that game. Chelsea rested several of their own players for that match, and they’ll certainly come back in for the trip to Anfield.

Petr Cech started in goal at Maribor, but Thibaut Courtois should come back between the sticks. The Belgian has started every league game this season, and that should continue here. Cesar Azpilicueta has completed his ban for a red card at Crystal Palace, and he should return this week to replace Filipe Luis. John Terry will be picked ahead of Kurt Zouma in defence, while Gary Cahill and Branislav Ivanovic will complete the back four.

Nemanja Matic and Cesc Fabregas will keep their places in central midfield, but they’re likely to be joined by Ramires in the middle, with Mourinho going for three in the middle of the park. The Blues looked far too open against Maribor in midweek, and they’ll need to be more solid against a Liverpool side who can attack with pace. Those three in the middle can control the game, in the 4-5-1 formation that Mourinho likes in these big away games.

Eden Hazard and Willian should complete the midfield, playing out wide. Both are more disciplined defensively than Andre Schurrle, which will be needed to stop Liverpool’s full backs from bombing on. While neither of those two were impressive in midweek, Hazard is an automatic pick and Willian is one of the hardest working players at the club.

Up front Diego Costa should be ready to start. Didier Drogba started in midweek, but Costa came on at half time with the Blues struggling. He should still be fit enough to start after that, and the Blues certainly need him. Since his injury the Blues have struggled to score goals and control games, so they’ll need him back to the form he showed at the start of the season as we enter a crucial stage of the campaign. Liverpool haven’t been very solid at the back in recent times, so this looks to be a great chance for Costa to get back to scoring ways.

LCN Verdict: 1-1 draw

Maribor 1-1 Chelsea Match Report – 5th November 2014

A missed penalty from Eden Hazard allowed Chelsea to drop two crucial points away to Maribor. The Blues fell behind to a goal from Agim Ibrahimi, but Nemanja Matic grabbed an equaliser for the Blues. The visitors pushed hard after drawing level, and they got a penalty when Hazard was brought down in the box, but the Belgian saw his limp spot-kick saved.

The Blues started with a much-changed side, with Petr Cech once again starting in goal, Kurt Zouma came in for Gary Cahill and Didier Drogba replaced Diego Costa up front. Oscar was also rested, as he dropped to the bench. They barely got going in the first half, which was a fairly drab affair and finished goalless.

The second half was much more entertaining, and it was kicked off by Jose Mourinho bringing on two players at half time. Diego Costa and Oscar came on for Willian and Andre Schurrle, as the boss looked for a reaction from his side. That didn’t do much for the Blues, and they continued to struggle in the second half. Just five minutes in Ibrahimi opened the scoring with a fantastic effort, and there was little that Petr Cech could do about it.

Ramires was then sent on for Filipe Luis shortly after the goal, switching to a back three. That seemed to help the Blues as they pushed forward, but they struggled to find a goal. Oscar appealed for a penalty after being brought down in the box, and replays showed that he was harshly done by as he was clipped before he could get his shot off.

The Blues finally got an equaliser just after the 70 minute mark, with Nemanja Matic scoring from a corner. Cesc Fabregas swung the ball in, Terry flicked it towards goal and Matic was there to tap the ball in from close range. It’s the Serbian’s second goal this season, both coming in the two Champions League away trips so far this campaign.

The Blues continued to push as they went looking for the winner. Diego Costa had the ball in the net, but the referee disallowed it for offside, but replays showed that the Spaniard was actually onside. The Blues were given the chance to win the game when Mitja Viler fouled Hazard in the box, but the Belgian missed from the spot for just the third time in his career.

It was a disappointing result and performance from the Blues, which showed shades of the November loss of form that has plagued them in past seasons. A defeat for Schalke in Lisbon has put extra pressure on the Blues for the game between those two sides at the end of the month, and it’s also opened up the group. Chelsea lead on eight points, with Schalke on five and Sporting Lisbon just a point behind them. Maribor currently sit bottom on three points. Things are tight for the Blues at the minute, but two more points should be enough to make it through as group winners.

LCN man of the match: Nemanja Matic

Maribor v Chelsea Preview (Champions League) – 5th November 2014

Chelsea can secure qualification to the last 16 of the Champions League on Wednesday night if they win against Slovenian side Maribor and the other result goes their way. The Blues sit top of the group, five points clear of Wednesday’s opponents Maribor, and six points ahead of bottom club Sporting Lisbon.

A win for the Blues in Slovenia and a win for Schalke in Portugal would send Chelsea through with two games still to play. That would set up a huge clash with Roberto Di Matteo’s Schalke at the end of this month for top spot. But before that, the Blues will need to see off Maribor.

They’ll need a much improved performance from their weekend win over QPR, and we could well see a few changes in personnel on the back of that. Petr Cech came into goal in the last Champions League game against Maribor, and he could well replace Thibaut Courtois for this trip. In defence Branislav Ivanovic will stay at right back, while Kurt Zouma may come in for either John Terry or Gary Cahill after impressing in his rare appearances this season. At left back, Filipe Luis is likely to continue his run in the team at the expense of Cesar Azpilicueta.

In midfield Nemanja Matic and Cesc Fabregas should be the central duo, continuing their impressive partnership. Don’t be surprised to see John Obi Mikel or Ramires come on early in the second half for either of these two, with a trip to Anfield coming on Saturday. Oscar and Eden Hazard should keep their places in the team, while Andre Schurrle may come in for Willian on the right wing.

Up front is again the real question mark. Diego Costa returned to the side against QPR and he was taken off early, possibly with this game in mind, but there’s still a question mark over whether he can play three games in the space of a week. Costa will be crucial for the game at the weekend, so we could see Didier Drogba face Maribor again, after scoring against them in the last game.

After the struggles Chelsea had playing with just Drogba up top against United, it’s likely the Ivorian will play here to ensure that Costa is ready for the Liverpool game. Drogba may have lost some of his pace, but he still has the quality and physical presence to trouble a side like Maribor.

We should see a few of the younger players on the bench, and they may make an appearance later on in the game. The likes of Dom Solanke, Nathan Ake and Kurt Zouma could all play some part. The Blues will see this as a perfect chance to give them a little more game time, especially with no more cup games for the next six weeks. While this might not be another 6-0, it should be a comfortable enough victory.

LCN Verdict: Chelsea to win 3-0