Chelsea’s Champions League Group Stage Preview

10 September 2017 | 7:23 am

Chelsea’s Champions League Group Stage Preview

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Chelsea will be hoping to kick-start their European campaign with a victory over Azerbaijan side Qarabag on Tuesday evening in the Champions League group stage.

Antonio Conte’s side have not had the most thrilling start to the Premier League but they will be hoping to make their mark in Europe.

The English champions were drawn in a relatively tough group but they should be too hot for Qarabag in the group stage opener.

Qarabag are taking part in the Champions League for the first time in the club’s legacy so it will be a historic night for them at Stamford Bridge.

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They will be hoping to keep the score down as low as possible and look to cause an upset when they play at home in the return fixture.

Chelsea’s most threatening opponents will no doubt be Atletico Madrid as both sides will be battling it out to win the group.

Anything other than progression to the knock-out stages would be a huge disappointment for either club and they will consider themselves the outright favourites to go through.

Italian side Roma will not go down easy however and they could make a strong claim themselves to progress through to the next round.

Roma have never won the Champions League, with their best run coming in the 1990-91 season when they finished as runners-up.

They are still a big club and have had league success in the past – winning three Serie A titles and nine Coppa Italia – but Chelsea and Atletico Madrid should see a safe passage through to the next round.

Chelsea are by far the most successful club in Europe out of the four teams but Madrid have had their fair share of success in recent years.

They have yet to win the European title but were runners-up in 2015-16 and 2013-14 as well as in 1973-1974.

Atletico know what it takes to win a European crown after lifting the Europa League trophy in 2010 and 2012, though Chelsea remain the only team in the group to win the Champions League.

The Londoners became the first English club to win all four European trophies and are the only club to hold the Champions League and the Europa League trophies at the same time following their success in 2012.

It is their 15th time competing in the group stages and they have only failed to qualify for the knock-out stages on just one occasion.

Team News

Chelsea

Diego Costa is still expected to remain absent as his exile from the Chelsea squad continues following a transfer stand-off between the Brazilian and the club.

Eden Hazard should be back to compete in Europe following his recovery from a fractured ankle. He could make his first start in the group opener against Qarabag on Tuesday.

Key Men

Chelsea

Hazard: If Hazard does return to the starting XI, he will be the key player for Chelsea. He is the player that creates things going forward and there is likely to be a wall of Qarabag players between Hazard and the goal. His trickery could be key in unlocking their back four.

Qarabag

Michel: The Spaniard is an important player for Qarabag and not only does he provide defensive cover in midfield, he has already contributed with goals this season. He will need to produce the performance of a lifetime to keep out the attacking threats from Qarabag’s group opponents.

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Roma

Nainggolan: The 29-year-old is a key part of Roma’s midfield and if they can get him on the ball often, he will look to make things happen. He likes to control and dictate the game and it’s crucial he’s at his best against Chelsea and Atletico Madrid.

Atletico Madrid

Griezmann: The Frenchman is Madrid’s main goalscorer and alongside Fernando Torres, he has plenty of European experience. He should lead the line in all of Madrid’s Champions League group matches should he remain fit.

Chelsea’s European Stats

  • It is Chelsea’s 15th time competing in the Champions League group stage.
  • Chelsea have failed to reach the knock-out stage of the Champions League just once.
  • It is the first time Chelsea will play opponents from Azerbaijan when they play Qarabag.

Prediction

Chelsea should top the group despite strong competition from Atletico Madrid. Roma could give them a run for their money but the Spaniards and the English champions look too good for the other two sides in the group and should pass through to the knock-out stages with minimum fuss.

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