Chelsea fly to Marseille safe in the knowledge that this potential banana skin is in fact a dead rubber, with the London outfit safely qualified in first place in Group F. Their French counterparts sealed their spot in the last sixteen of the Champions League with an impressive 3-0 win in Moscow against Spartak.
The one Chelsea player bound to be looking forward to this trip is Didier Drogba. The Ivorian enjoyed a fine season at the Stade Velodrome in 2003/04 before joining the Blues, guiding the club to the final of the Uefa Cup with an impressive European goal tally of eleven. The revered striker will hopefully ease some of the tensions off the pitch too, with ‘La Marseillaise’ supporters known for their fervent support and continued hatred of the English.
The Champions League has proved much easier for Chelsea so far this campaign than the Premier League, with the Champions having secured a maximum fifteen points from their five games so far, half the number of points they have accrued domestically in ten fewer games.
The Blues are in their worst run of form domestically in ten years, having picked up a measly five points from their past six games. Wednesday’s clash will provide a welcome change of attention after so many woes in the previous month, even if the game against Marseille actually counts for nothing. With a big game at Tottenham on Sunday Carlo Ancelotti will be desperately hoping his side don’t pick up any fresh injuries. If Jon Mikel Obi features and gets booked, he will miss the first leg of the round of sixteen game. The draw for that is a week on Friday.
Rumour has it that Frank Lampard will make the trip to France and will feature on the substitutes’ bench with a view to coming on for the last twenty minutes or so. This could be a landmark moment in Chelsea’s season and hopefully his reintroduction will breathe new life into a team looking weary and short of ideas. Elsewhere Petr Cech could be rested, particularly after his nasty clash with Tim Cahill on Saturday, whilst expect starts for fringe players such as Ramires, Paulo Ferreira and Daniel Sturridge. Youngsters Jeffrey Bruma and Josh McEachran can also expect to be given the nod in the 60,000 capacity stadium, an excellent test of their credentials. Gael Kakuta might also start in his homeland.
Marseille have recovered magnificently from losing their opening two Champions League encounters to have already secured qualification. They currently sit in fourth place in Ligue 1, but like Chelsea are only two points behind the leaders, in this case Lille. They look well set to launch a title bid the second half of the campaign in an attempt to retain their crown of France’s finest. They did however lose on Sunday to a 92nd minute goal at Nice, with former Reading midfielder Emerse Fae doing the damage.
With the three games following it Wednesday’s clash with Marseille looks about as inconsequential as any competitive game gets. Considering the poor performances and results endured by Chelsea supporters recently it will also be nice to watch the game knowing the result and the performance don’t really matter. If the Blues can deliver either it would be appreciated though, especially with Spurs, United and Arsenal just around the corner.