Sporting Lisbon v Chelsea Preview (Champions League) – 30th September 2014

Chelsea travel to Lisbon for their first ever meeting with Sporting, with the Blues needing to get all three points. Having started off their Champions League campaign with a draw at home to Schalke, Jose Mourinho’s men need to start getting wins to secure qualification from their group.

Sporting also drew their opening game in the group, so all four teams are currently level on a point each, but with Schalke, Chelsea’s biggest threat in this group, at home to minnows Maribor the Blues could really use a win here. Sporting will have their own ambitions of making the knockout rounds, so this will be far from an easy game.

With no wins in their last four away games in the Champions League, Chelsea aren’t coming to this with a great track record. They need to turn that around here, and they’ll have to be much tighter defensively than they have been in the Premier League this season. Mourinho is likely to opt for a 4-3-3 formation, to get a good hold on the midfield.

Thibaut Courtois will keep his place in goal, given his good start to the season. Mourinho will likely keep his first choice back four, although we could see Filipe Luis coming in for Cesar Azpilicueta at left back. Given how little Luis has played since his move in the summer, Mourinho could choose to give him a start in Europe.

Cesc Fabregas and Nemanja Matic are two of the first names on the team sheet now, and they’ll both keep their places for this game. With Ramires out for this game and the Arsenal match, it is likely that Mikel will come into the midfield. The only other option is youngster Nathan Ake, and he could be too much of a risk in this game.

On the wings, Eden Hazard is a certainty to start. Willian could keep his place in the team, as he’d be a good player to have tracking back against Nani, Sporting’s main attacking threat, and his pace is always useful in big European games. That would see Andre Schurrle staying on the bench.

The big question is who starts up front for Chelsea. Diego Costa started against Aston Villa at the weekend, and Mourinho has already said the Spaniard isn’t fit enough to play three games in a week. With Arsenal coming up this weekend, it’s doubtful that Costa will play. Given how Didier Drogba looked in the game against Schalke, it’s doubtful that he’ll start. Loic Remy should play, which would keep Costa fresh for the weekend.

This is a must win for Chelsea, the Blues need to get points on the board for their Champions League campaign. Given how they responded to losing their opening Champions League game last season, the Blues should be able to get a win and get their European season up and running, but we can’t see it being an emphatic victory.

LCN Verdict: Chelsea to win 1-0