Chelsea and their beleaguered manager Jose Mourinho will once again be looking to the Champions League to provide some respite from their dismal domestic form as they face Dynamo Kiev at Stamford Bridge.
Everything is going wrong in the Premier League, but a win here will at least put them well on track in their attempts to reach the knockout stages of Europe’s leading competition. It is important that they do take maximum points, as they currently sit third in Group G, a point behind their opponents and three behind leaders FC Porto, who are already in a very strong position to qualify and who visit West London on match day six.
One of Chelsea’s better performances in recent weeks came in the reverse fixture in Ukraine, where they were on top for the majority of proceedings but could not find the all important goal to reward their superiority and left feeling aggrieved after having a very credible penalty claim waved away. It certainly adds to the significance of this clash as a failure to win would increase the pressure on the Blues even further.
For now, Mourinho remains in charge, but if rumours are to be believed he may not last much longer, especially if results and performances do not improve. In the lower reaches of the Premier League and having suffered an endemic loss of confidence and belief, thet sunk to an even deeper low on Saturday with another home defeat, this time against Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool, and again they were woefully second best.
Naturally, Mourinho pointed to a refereeing decision as the reason why his side lost, but the bottom line is that they simply were not good enough on the day. Liverpool played with the freedom that they so obviously lacked even after an early goal from Ramires put them ahead, while all of Chelsea’s attacking players that were so outstanding last season had little or no influence on the game and made life relatively easy for the opposition backline, which is fast becoming a familiar story.
In defence they are a mess, and despite Mourinho fielding a more cautious line-up at the weekend they still looked as frail as ever. Kurt Zouma is a very promising youngster, but he is finding the going tough is a struggling team of high-profile individuals, and it has to be acknowledged now that captain John Terry is beginning to show his age as far as playing at the elite level is concerned.
All of that will give confidence to Dynamo Kiev, who are a strong team in their own right and will provide stiff opposition again. There is much less pressure on them coming into this match as they know that Chelsea are under a particularly vicious storm cloud as things stand, and in winger Andriy Yarmolenko they have someone who can torment the home defence throughout. Add to that the knowledge that avoiding defeat will leave qualification in their own hands, and Sergey Rebrov’s side have a real incentive coming into this one.
It will be tense, and Mourinho may decide to restore midfielders Cesc Fabregas and Nemanja Matic to his starting XI, while 19-year-old Kenedy has shown flashes of quality since arriving at the club. Thibaut Courtois, Branislav Ivanovic and Pedro Rodriguez are all unavailable through injury.