For all of their domestic struggles, Chelsea were the only English club to experience success in the first round of Champions League matches, and they will hope to make it two wins from two as manager Jose Mourinho returns to former club FC Porto.
The victory over Maccabi Tel-Aviv earlier in the month was out of keeping with most of the Blues’ season so far, as they controlled the game with authority and showed flashes of brilliance in easing to what was eventually a straightforward three-point haul. It was an ideal start to Mourinho’s latest attempt to win this most prestigious of tournaments as Chelsea boss, but he knows things will get much tougher and his team must improve radically if they are to make a challenge.
This is arguably their most difficult match in the group on paper, with Porto having reached the last eight in 2014-15 and always a tricky team to overcome on home turf. They were held to a draw by Dynamo Kiev in their first game in what was a hugely entertaining affair, coming from behind to lead only to succumb to late pressure from the Ukrainian side and concede a late equaliser.
Both of their goals that night were scored by Vincent Aboubakar, who headed home powerfully and unerringly from two superb crosses. With Chelsea having proved vulnerable from defending crosses of late, it could be an area where Porto will look to exploit, but they do have several other players capable of causing problems, including tricky midfielder Hector Herrera and one of Africa’s leading stars, Algerian forward Yacine Brahimi.
Mourinho was highly critical of his side’s first half performance in their Premier League match against struggling Newcastle United at the weekend, and eventually they needed a superb goal from nowhere to instigate a late comeback to earn a share of the points. Without the leadership that John Terry provides, Chelsea were caught out haplessly at the back for both Magpies goals, mistakes which they surely cannot afford to make here.
Despite his relentless energy and work rate, it is fair to say that Ramires has hardly set the world alight in a Chelsea shirt since helping them become champions of Europe against all the odds in 2012, but he certainly made the desired impact on Tyneside with an all-action display from the bench. As a former Benfica player, he returns to familiar surroundings here and will be intent on causing similar problems for the champions of Portugal.
Given Chelsea’s recent defensive struggles, Mourinho may decide to restore Terry to the starting line-up, while Willian will also be pushing for a start. Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois is injured, but striker Diego Costa is available.