Chelsea will host Sporting Lisbon in the final group match of the Champions League 2014/15. The blues have already qualified, as group winners, so I fully expect Jose Mourinho to rest a plethora of players for this one. Chelsea are in the middle of a run of eleven matches, in 41 days, and after Saturday’s set back at St James’ Park this will make perfect sense.
Sporting Lisbon need a point to secure second place and qualification. They will have to manage without, on loan Nani, thigh injury, and Cedric who is suspended. This will be a very nervous evening for the Portuguese as I expect a second string Chelsea to be chomping at the bit to impress Mourinho. Chelsea is unbeaten in their last five Champions league outings.
Mourinho is expected to rest Courtois, Azpilicuerta, Terry, Ivanovic, Matic, Hazard, Costa and Willian. I expect the team sheet to read Cech, Christensen, Zouma, Cahil, Luiz, Mikel, Fabregas, Oscar, Salah, Schurrle and Remy. This team is strong enough to beat Sporting, however I suspect a draw will please everyone.
No one can blame Mourinho if his mind is not on this one, with Chelsea surrendering an 8 point lead in the Premiership to now lead champions Manchester City by 3 points. This match is followed by a home tie against Hull City on Saturday and Mourinho will certainly have one eye on that contest. The written press are circling Stamford Bridge like a kettle of vultures waiting for us to succumb to the pressure. I feel the ‘us against the world’ mentality returning!
The opposition are beginning to work out how to defend against Chelsea, certainly in away matches. They defend on mass, squeeze the space between lines and break at speed on the flanks. Mourinho will learn from this so expect Chelsea to defend differently, away from the Bridge. On Saturday Steve Bruce will be shaking in his boots. His team will come up against a highly motivated group who will be out for revenge!
So the Champions League group stages will be put to bed until February, by then Chelsea will be in the final of the Capital Cup, comfortably through the early stages of the FA Cup, top of the League by 6 points and the assembled press will be singing our praises, once again.
As the song goes, ‘ Oh the weather outside is frightful, but the goals are so delightful, Stamford Bridge is the place to go, Mourinho, Mourinho, Mourinho!!’