6th November 2012
Champions League winners Chelsea will be on the verge of early elimination from Europe’s elite competition if they fail to beat Shakhtar, and that should be enough incentive for the Blues to give their very best. Their opponents Shakhtar remained in the driving seat with the 2-1 win in Donetsk and all they need to do now is avoid defeat at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea were always going to show some improvement this term having signed a number of quality players in the summer, but nobody could expect the Blues to hit the ground running so early into the season. New signings Hazard and Oscar didn’t need a lot of time to make an impact, and together with Juan Mata, they became team’s main creative outlet. With the new signings bringing a breath of fresh air to Stamford Bridge, Chelsea enjoyed a great start to the season and even created a four-point cushion at the Premier League summit. As far as their Champions League campaign was concerned, the Blues opened with entertaining draw against Juventus, before hammering Nordsjaelland away from home. However, the 2-1 defeat to Shakhtar acted as a real blow to team’s ambitions, especially as the final scoreline flattered the English side. Roberto Di Matteo’s side now have no option but to try and get revenge on the Miners, but numerous selection problems are making their life very difficult. Juan Mata and John Terry should return from injury and suspension, but Ashley Cole and David Luiz are doubtful, while Frank Lampard is definitely out.
Shakhtar have spent a lot of money and effort to build a squad capable of mixing it up with the best European sides, and it appears that the Miners have finally succeeded in their quest. The club could have long ago cashed in on their key players, with the likes of Willian, Fernandinho and Mkhitaryan attracting interest from top European clubs, but the decision to keep hold of them is now bearing fruit. Shakhtar not only won all games in Ukrainian championship and Cup competition this term, but also completely outclassed the likes of Juventus and Chelsea in the Champions League, proving they have what it takes to reach the final stages of the competition. The Miners are in such a good position at the moment that they can virtually secure their place in the knockout stages with one point from Stamford Bridge, but that doesn’t mean they will adopt a negative approach. With no fresh injury worries to report, boss Mircea Lucescu has every right to feel optimistic ahead of the trip to London.
Chelsea were clearly shaken by back to back defeats to Shakhtar and Manchester United, while the weekend’s draw with Swansea is unlikely to help the team improve atmosphere in the squad. Shakhtar, on the other hand, have been absolutely brilliant in Europe so far and I can see them taking at least one point from this game.
Verdict: Double chance on Shakhtar
Best Odds: 4/5
Bookmaker: Paddy Power
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