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In Form Blues Aim To Start European Campaign With A Bang


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After reaching the Champions League semi-final last season, Chelsea will be hopeful to going a step or two further this time around. But long before that, they will be hopeful of kicking off the blue campaign to conquer Europe in emphatic style when they host familiar European opponents, Schalke, at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday, September 17th, at 19:45 UK time.

“No Champions League draw is an easy one” goes the saying, but Jose Mourinho will certainly be pretty content by Chelsea’s group stage draw this season. He will especially be delighted by the low number of miles the team will have to fly. But aside from the short flying times, we have also managed to avoid the “bigger” teams such as Dortmund, Juventus, PSG…etc.

And to add to the Blues’ kind European fortunes, the first match against Schalke, our biggest threat in the group, could not have come at a better for the men from West London. Chelsea have had a quite explosive start to the season which put them at the top of the PL table. They remain the only team in the league with a 100% win record, scoring 15 goals in the opening 4 matches. New signings, Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas, in particular have impressed (and broken records along the way).

On the other hand, three matches into the season, the German side are already in mini-crisis. Despite drawing with Bayern Munich, away losses against Hannover and Monchengladbach leaves manager, Jen Keller, under a fair bit of pressure. To be fair to Keller, Schalke have been missing 7 players, including some key men, in their slow start to the season. A very similar situation to the one they were in when they played Chelsea in the Champions’ League group stages last season.

Head to head

Schalke are a pretty familiar side for Chelsea and Jose Mourinho. The two sides have been drawn in the same Champions league group on three occasions in recent years. After 2007, the two teams most recently met in last season’s group stages where Chelsea managed to run out 3-0 winners both home and away. In fact, in the 4 previous meetings between the two sides, the German side has only ever managed to avoid defeat once in a 0-0 draw at Schalke’s Veltins Arena back in November 2007.

If history is anything to go by, Schalke are in for a tough night at the bridge. But history aside, do the Germans have a leg to stand on based on their current state and form?

Opposition Analysis

As eluded to above, Schalke’s form has been far from impressive at the start of this season. They have only managed a single point in the Bundes Liga so far and currently sit in 16th, a relegation play off place. Surprisingly, their only point so far was earned against champions, Bayern Munich. But further inspection into their weaknesses this season, explains that occurrence.

In their own half, Schalke are usually very organized defensively. They defend very well with two banks of four and leave little space and passing options. Their problem however, lies in their defensive transition. On Saturday, I watched Schalke getting well beaten by Gladbach 4-1. They dominated possession, but every time they lost the ball, they were in trouble.

The midfielders too slow to transition into defense. Their incredibly high line is questionable, to say the least. The two CBs were very rarely on the same line. And they were not helped by the fact that both fullbacks push very high up the pitch with every attack.

In offense, Schalke try execute everything with a lot of pace. Their passing is quick and sharp, and they rely on runs from Sydney Sam, Boateng, and the now fit Draxler, down the wing or diagonally. Their chance conversion is rather poor, though. At the weekend they struggled quite a lot to create much with little space to run into in the final third.

Against Bayern, however, they always defended deep and relied on the counter attack. They managed to prevent Guardiola’s side from creating much, and their pace players took full advantage of the space behind Bayern’s defense. And I expect that that is how they will attempt to play against us, instead of trying to dominate the ball.

This means that the match will be tougher than what you’d expect at first glance, especially if you consider the key players that will be back for Schalke tomorrow.

Team news

Jen Keller will be delighted to welcome back all of Julian Draxler, Max Meyer and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar for the match, while all of Jefferson Farfan, Sead Kolasinac, Benedikt Höwedes, Leon Goretzka, Jan Kirchhoff and Fabian Giefer remain unavailable. Joel Matip faces a late fitness test. If he is not passed fit, Schalke will have a real problem at CB. They’re already having to play 19 year old Ayhan there.

On the other hand, Chelsea have a full squad available. Even Didier Drogba who missed the match against Swansea with a foot injury, is expected to be ready for this one. Though, chances are, even if fit, he likely won’t make the Chelsea bench.

Facts and stats

-Schalke have never managed to score against Chelsea in 4 previous meetings. They conceded 8 goals.
- Schalke's only win in England in the CL came against Arsenal in the 2012-13 group stages.
- This will be Chelsea's 12th consecutive participation in the Champions League. They were the winners the last time the final were to take place in Germany.
- Schalke are playing in the CL for the 7th time in their history. Their best result was reaching the semifinals in 2010/11
- Chelsea have kept 7 clean sheets in their last 11 champions league matches.
- Schalke have only won 1 of their last 6 CL matches (D1 L4).
- Diego Costa who has scored 7 goals in his first 4 matches with Chelsea, has 8 goals in his 9 career Cl appearances.
- Didier Drogba is the top scoring African in the CL. He's also Chelsea's highest scoring player in the competition.

Match Odds (from Sky Bet):
Chelsea win - 30/100
Draw - 4/1
Schalke win - 9/1

Match Coverage:
Depending on where you are from, you can watch the match in the following channels:

United Kingdom: Sky Sport
United States: Fox Soccer
Middle East: BeIN Sports

For additional regions, you can check out the TV schedule for the match here.

There should be many match streams that can be found online if your local sports channels are not broadcasting the game. Or, if you happen to be busy and cannot catch the game live, follow TalkChelsea on Twitter as it would provide live match commentary on the action.

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