Chelsea could secure their place in the knockout stages of the Champions League if they manage to take three points from their long trip to Israel to face Maccabi Tel-Aviv, who have lost all four of their matches so far.
Victory over Dynamo Kiev in their last European outing was crucial for Jose Mourinho and his team, however nervy it may have been, with yet another marvellous free-kick from Willian proving to be the winner after they had been pegged back to 1-1 having been forced on to the defensive for much of the second half. The Brazilian’s superb set-piece means that a win here for Chelsea will be enough to go through if Dyamo Kiev fail to win away to Group G leaders FC Porto.
Despite struggling for confidence for most of the season so far and suffering an abnormally high number of setbacks, Chelsea should have few problems in fulfilling their side of the bargain. The home side are already out of the competition and have found playing at this level a bridge too far after their impressive qualifying victory over Basel. A hefty defeat at Stamford Bridge on match day one set the tone for them, and it seems the best they can do here is aim to frustrate.
There was a tangible sense of relief around Chelsea after their losing run in the Premier League came to end at home to Norwich City on Saturday, with Diego Costa’s second half goal enough for all three points and some respite. The winner came following a fine piece of quick thinking from Cesc Fabregas, who showed the kind of invention that he has so often been unable to reproduce in 2015-16 after finishing last term as the king of assists.
Mourinho ended the game a little frustrated that his side did manage to make the most of all the chances they created, which led to a few nerves towards the final whistle as Norwich threw men forward in search of an equaliser. It was a pleasing result for Chelsea, but they will not be out of the woods until they can put together a sustained run of good form. If they can play well here and win convincingly, that may see confidence flow through them once again.
It would be hugely satisfying for the Blues if they can ensure their progress here, especially as they take on Porto at home on match day six. They were prefer that the only thing up for grabs that night was the chance to finish as group winners. As for Chelsea here, Asmir Begovic is likely to remain in goal despite Thibaut Courtois nearing full fitness, while Gary Cahill will be pushing for a return to the back four.
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