Chelsea return to Champions League action on Tuesday night as they host group minnows Maribor. The Blues currently sit top of their group, with the Slovenians two points behind in third place. With this group so tight right now, Chelsea really need six points from their next two games, which are both against Maribor, to truly stamp their authority on proceedings.
After their win in Lisbon against Sporting three weeks ago, the Blues are in a strong position in group G, despite dropping points to Schalke on the opening day. Maribor have started off well in the group, picking up two draws so far as they have shown they’re not going to be the walkovers many expected. They went to Schalke in their last game and took the lead before being pegged back, so Chelsea will need to be careful here.
Despite that, they know a draw isn’t an option. They need a win here to make sure they stay top of the group, with a crucial clash against Roberto Di Mateo’s Schalke side coming up next month. This group was painted by many as the perfect group for Chelsea when the draw was made, but it’s looking a little more difficult than that right now.
We will likely see the Pensioners stay with their usual back four in this game. Filipe Luis usually gets a game in the Champions League, but he’s likely to be rested here with Cesar Azpilicueta suspended for next weekend’s trip to Manchester United. There are no current injury worries in defence, but there are a few further forward.
In midfield Ramires still hasn’t recovered from his groin injury, so he’ll have to sit out here. That shouldn’t have too much of an effect, with Nemanja Matic and Cesc Fabregas set to start anyway. Another injury doubt is Andre Schurrle. He missed his country’s game against Ireland and the win against Palace with illness, and he could be out for this game as well. Willian will probably keep his place beside Oscar and Eden Hazard.
Up front is another worry, with Diego Costa out for the game and possibly out for the next three weeks with a hamstring injury. Loic Remy came in for Costa at the weekend and he could keep his place, although Mourinho may want to keep him for the game at the weekend, in which case Didier Drogba could start.
While losing Costa is a blow, Remy is a more than able replacement so the Blues should be able to cope. Given how Drogba has performed since returning to the club, him starting could be a worry. He looks like he’s lost quite a bit of pace, and he doesn’t seem as sharp on the ball as he once was. With Maribor likely to come and play very defensively, Drogba would struggle against a deep defence who offer little room in behind.
LCN Verdict: Chelsea to win 3-0