After the Blues were edged out in Manchester at the weekend, the season rolls onto the next game in Europe. The next stop is Valencia, where the Blues will look to overturn a defeat suffered earlier in the group stage. With two games left, the group is entering the business end and Frank Lampard’s boys will be looking to finish on a strong note. Perhaps the most important game of the season so far, Lampard and Chelsea will be out for revenge as they know a defeat here could be fatal for their hopes of reaching the knockout stages.
With Valencia taking all three points at the Bridge on Matchweek one, the Blues know that this will be a stern test, especially travelling away to the Mestalla, where the Spanish side have only lost one game all season.
The team to inflict said defeat was Ajax, Chelsea’s bitter rivals in the group, who schooled Valencia on the night winning by three goals to zero. But Chelsea will take hope from the two away wins already in the group against Lille and Ajax.
Right now, Chelsea, Ajax and Valencia are all grouped on seven points each. With Chelsea facing Valencia now and bottom of the table Lille at home in gameweek six, this game stands out as a vital one in the race to top the group. Coming through this test with a win will ease a lot of potential issues in the future.
Defeat could be fatal, as losing here poses the risk of falling into the Europa League which would be a disaster for this young team. However, the away performances against Ajax and Lille put Chelsea in good stead and they certainly have enough quality to come through this game which is essentially another big test for this young crop of players.
Chelsea have had quite a few battles with Valencia over the years in the Champions League who usually are a tough team to come up against. From 2007 onwards, we’ve faced them seven times only losing once, winning three times and drawing the rest. None of the games have seen a clear winner apart from one particular game.
The 2011 group stage home game was vital for Chelsea’s Champions League win. At the time, the Blues needed to beat Valencia to avoid dropping into the Europa League. Under Andre Villas-Boas, the old guard pulled through with Didier Drogba scoring two and assisting the other on the night to lead Chelsea into the knockout stages.
The upcoming game definitely has elements that echo that night, as Chelsea look to come through this test and move away from Valencia in the group, especially with only Lille to beat at home in the final game of the group stages, it’s safe to say this is a vital, must-win game. The implications of finishing second are well known as winning the group does set you up for a slightly easier draw. But, with the strength of teams in the Champions League, no game is ever easy.
Not as much injury news to shout out about this week – Ross Barkley has an ankle injury and has an ongoing problem so won’t be involved. Other long term injuries such as Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Antonio Rudiger are well documented as they will be out for a lengthy spell as they recover from long term injuries. However, Callum Hudson-Odoi will be a doubt as he missed the loss against Manchester City due to a hamstring injury, and is unlikely to be risked.
Expect Reece James and Mason Mount to start for a different reason. Mount was on the bench and came on late against City and will be key to helping the team play with and without the ball. His work rate and quality was missed against City and Frank will look to utilise him in this big game. With James, fans are crying out for the young fullback to be given a starting role in this team. His performances so far haven’t faltered in terms of consistency and his mobility and quality could be favoured to Azpilicueta’s experience.
UEFA Champions League
Wednesday 27th November
Valencia vs Chelsea
Kick Off: 17:55 UK time