Wednesday night sees Chelsea travel to the east coast of Spain for their second Champions League group stage match versus Valencia. The Blues got off to a perfect start to this year’s competition with a solid 2-0 victory over Bayer Leverkusen and will be seeking another three points on Wednesday, though a draw would not be disastrous. A Valencia supporter would probably say exactly the same thing; a win would be brilliant, but a draw not the end of the world. They will have been disappointed with their 0-0 draw away at Genk but even at home will be wary against the group favourites.
Having played five games in two weeks, September has been a hectic period for Andre Villas-Boas’ team, but there can be no excuses here as Valencia have had the same schedule. Whilst there have been a few parallels between the two clubs’ form, Chelsea have come off better than their Spanish opposition. Although the defeat at Old Trafford was disappointing, things really could have gotten a lot worse for AVB over the past week following consecutive red cards. Instead, the Blues have recorded two confidence-boosting victories against tough opposition.
Valencia, meanwhile, have also had two players sent off in their previous two games, but in different circumstances and with different results. Apart from the draw against Genk, Valencia had started their season perfectly until last Wednesday when they drew 2-2 with Barcelona. This may not sound a bad result, but when you consider that they led twice and were only reduced to 10-men in stoppage time, a bit more frustration is evident. Then on Saturday, Los Che’s unbeaten start to the season was ended by Sevilla. The fact that they had Aritz Aduriz sent off was, again, no excuse, because their opposition were already down to nine men.
In terms of team news, the only man certain not to be available for Villas-Boas is long-term absentee Michael Essien, who scored a last-gasp winner at the Mestalla in the 2007 Champions League quarter-final. With Drogba making a scoring return on Saturday and Daniel Sturridge expected to be fit again, selection for the front three places could not be more interesting. Spanish natives Juan Mata – making a return to his former club – and Fernando Torres, who will be desperately keen to make the headlines solely for scoring his third goal in as many games, will most likely start, but there really is an intense competition for place up-front at the moment. Further back, Frank Lampard will be seeking to regain his place having not played a full game since the 10 September victory against Sunderland. Meanwhile, his England teammate John Terry could see himself rested again, as he was a fortnight ago against Leverkusen, after having played two hours of football on a 10-man side in the past week.
Despite Valencia being a notoriously tough opposition at home – their recent draw against Barcelona a testament to that – Chelsea will still fancy their chances. The Blues have previously travelled to the Mestalla twice before – first in the 2006/07 Champions League quarter-finals and then half a year later in the group stages of the 2007/08 campaign – and have, on both occasions, come away with important 2-1 victories.