The Champions League campaign kicks off this evening when Chelsea host Rosenborg at Stamford Bridge, in the first of the group stage games for this season.
Chelsea again have injury worries ahead of the match with Lampard, Drogba and Pizarro all out, Bridge is still unavailable and long term-absentee Michael Ballack not even listed in the 25 man squad eligible for the group stages.
After the goalless draw against Blackburn at the weekend, Jose will surely be looking to strike early and deflate any semblance of resistance Rosenborg may build as the match goes on.
Midfielder Roar Strand has already declared they are looking to frustrate Chelsea; “We want to keep Chelsea from scoring early. The longer time they take, the bigger our chance is. We won’t outplay them. The key will be on the counter-attacks and set pieces. They are only human as well, even though they are very good players.”
With the absence the top two goal scorers for last season, the responsibility will be on the shoulders of a certain striker who made this competition his own in recent years; Andriy Shevchenko. After scoring in midweek against the Italian national team, we could have been forgiven for thinking that Andriy had been working on his fitness with a view to making an explosive return to the first team, to show to all and sundry that he can still cut it at this level.
Sadly, Blackburn wasn’t the match in which he was able to show it, yet the slower pace and technical ability of Rosenberg may just be the confidence booster that the Ukrainian Captain needs to kick-start his Chelsea career, as well as putting him closer to the all time Champions League goal-scoring record currently held by Gerd Muller.
Petr Cech recently stated his ambition to make this seasons Champions League final; “Having reached three Champions League semi-finals, we want to make it to the final. You need a piece of luck to reach the Champions League final. In previous campaigns we’ve had bad luck, but I believe it is better to lose three semi-finals than lose three finals. That would be much more painful.”
Prediction: The team should mostly be unchanged from the one that lined up against Blackburn at the weekend, and with a bit of luck going our way, another similar performance should reap the rewards that it deserves, and that’s the three points and some goals to the good too.