This all seems rather familiar, doesn’t it; another match against FC Porto where the Chelsea need a result, however are coming off their latest setback: a defeat against a side that they should have beaten? That’s the reality that faces the Blues as they welcome FC Porto to Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night.
The scenario is rather simple: any result, draw or win, secures Chelsea’s passage to the Knockout Stages of the Champions League and defeat sees them consigned to the Europa League, assuming that Dynamo Kiev defeat Maccabi Tel-Aviv in Kiev.
However, things are not always as easy as they seem, especially for Chelsea this season. Languishing form in the Premier League sees the Blues just clear of the relegation zone, despite having won the title last season. And every time it seems as though last season’s form is returning and results are improving, a result like Saturday’s defeat to Bournemouth happens, and the cycle starts all over again.
Despite their struggles in the Premier League, Chelsea can advance once more to the Knockout Stage in Europe’s elite competition; a feat that they’ve achieved every year except one under the ownership of Roman Abramovich.
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho will hope that his Chelsea team might rouse them from their slumber and put in the performance necessary to defeat his former side. In the previous match in Portugal, Porto showed Chelsea the spirit that has sometimes been lacking in this current side during that first matchup two months ago. Maicon’s go-ahead goal just minutes after the restart cancelled out Willian’s free-kick equaliser put Porto in front, and despite being put under pressure for the last half an hour, held on for the win.
However, Chelsea will be boosted by the news that the squad is very nearly at full strength. John Terry and Ramires return from injuries suffered in Tel-Aviv two weeks ago, and that should help provide defensive options for Mourinho should he decided to take a more pragmatic approach.
That could be dangerous, though, against a Porto side that has even more work to do. To ensure qualification, Porto must win at Stamford Bridge. Otherwise, they’ll have to hope that Dynamo Kiev lose at home to Maccabi Tel-Aviv. That’s something that will concern manager Jule Lopetugui, but what won’t concern the Porto boss is his team’s form. Between league and Champions League fixtures, Porto have played 17 and lost just once with four draws. Lopetugui’s men will be fully confident that they can come to London and come out with the victory they need.
However, history is not on their side. Chelsea have lost just twice to Portuguese opposition in their last 12 matches, and Porto themselves have never won at Stamford Bridge. The numbers aren’t always reliable, and Porto will fancy their chances away to a side lacking in form and possibly hoping for a nervy atmosphere inside Stamford Bridge.
Both teams face a massive test of character in a match full of pressure, but the pressure is much greater on Mourinho’s men, who will have to summon the urgency and fight that has at times been lacking this season. Lose this match, and many of the Chelsea squad and the manager will face a lot of tough questions and uncertainty once again.
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