Chelsea received a huge lift to advance to the knockout stage of the Champions League as the blues were handed a favourable draw that will see them contend the two group places against Shalke 04, Sporting Lisbon and Maribor.
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With possible scares noted before the draw which could have seen the 2012 winners pitted against the likes of Juventus, Borussia Dortmund and PSG, the group stage is considered passable albeit with a couple of potentially dangerous away fixtures to negotiate.
The German outfit, Schalke 04 will be most familiar playing at Stamford Bridge having been grouped together in last season’s campaign and previously in 2007/08.
Chelsea do have the upper hand however, winning all matches with the exception of a single scoreless draw, and last season’s home and away legs both succumbing to 3-0 victories.
Schalke do possess a danger, with World Cup winner Howedes along the backline, and Draxler providing a cutting edge with proven Dutchman, Jan Huntelaar leading the frontline, the young German side have potential and will be eager to thrust themselves into the knockout stage of Europe’s biggest competition.
Likewise Sporting Lisbon will want to include themselves in the mix. The Portuguese team should prove difficult on their turf, the Estádio José Alvalade, and have a big part to play.
With a great history and notable players being brought through their ranks, expect to see William Carvahlo, if he doesn’t make a subjected move this transfer window, and the Manchester United loaned Nani returning to England, to be key players for them this season.
Maribor completes the group, entering from the fourth pot. Representing the second largest city in Slovenia, Maribor qualifies for the Champions League for the first time since 1999, the same season Chelsea was inaugurated into the competition.
Having defeated French giants Lyon in 1999 and Celtic this season to qualify for the group stages, Slovenia’s most successful club will have a lot to do if they are to find European football beyond this stage.
The group is set-up to allow Chelsea to dominate first place, with professional performances particularly away from home needed, but with little travel distances included, compared with long-haul journeys that could have been drawn, the first phase of the Champions League will allow Chelsea to focus on all fronts.