Chelsea will be determined to get their first Champions League victory of the season tonight as they travel to Copenhagen to face FC Nordsjaelland.
After recording a disappointing 2-2 draw on matchday one against Juventus, the Blues need to beat the Danish champions in order to stamp their authority on this group.
Their hosts, who lost 2-0 away to Shakhstar Donetsk two weeks ago, are in their first Champions League campaign and would love to cause an upset in their first home outing. (Although the match will be played at the Danish national stadium – where Chelsea beat FC Copenhagen 2-0 in the second round of the competition in February 2011 – rather than Nordsjaelland’s, which has a maximum capacity of around 10,000.)
There are two ways of looking at last season’s Champions League away form. Either: Chelsea won only one out of six of their games, losing two and drawing three. Or: Chelsea, under Roberto di Matteo, beat Benfica, recorded one of their most famous victories – a 2-2 draw – of all time at the Nou Camp and somehow slayed Bayern Munich on penalties in their own backyard (though officially this was a neutral location).
Either way, there’s no hiding from the fact that the Blues nearly went out at the group stage last year after failing to beat Valencia and Genk away, and losing in Leverkusen. Chelsea would have crashed out if it weren’t for their 100% group-stage victory rate at Stamford Bridge last year. Having already dropped – and they really were dropped – points at home against Juve, at least one away win is needed, and Copenhagen should be the place to get it.
But let’s not play down the role of Nordsjaelland. The 21-year-old club were shock winners of their domestic league last season and are inexperienced, but this is the biggest match in their, albeit short, history. With respect, this is their semi-final in Barcelona, their final in Munich. And we all know what can be achieved on those nights.
In terms of team news, Daniel Sturridge is out and Frank Lampard is expected to return after not featuring at Arsenal on Saturday. Striker – Fernando Torres- and defence should stay pretty much the same, but don’t be surprised to see a few switch-arounds in the five-man midfield. Victor Moses, Ryan Bertrand, Marko Marin or even Lucas Piazon could come in.
The home side’s most familiar face – though he probably won’t start – is Andreas Laudrup, son of Swansea manager Michael and nephew of former Chelsea non-great Brian.