Chelsea Focus – Shakhtar test next on the agenda

Match day four of the 2012-2013 Champions League group stage sees Shakhtar Donetsk make the trip to play Chelsea at Stamford Bridge for the second instalment of the fixture that saw the Ukrainian side come out triumphant in a 2-1 win at the Donbass Arena just two weeks ago.

After what seems a long couple of weeks for Chelsea the attention turns back to Europe and qualification from a tough group. Shakhtar were particularly comfortable at home against Chelsea in the last round of games but history says that the Ukrainians do not travel well in Europe, and the Blues will hope this is again the case on Wednesday night.

Shakhtar are like two different teams in Europe. At home they are almost unbeatable with their style and tactics while the atmosphere makes it hard for visiting teams to adapt. Yet away from home they seem a thoroughly changed side.

Chelsea are unbeaten in 27 home Champions League group stage matches stretching back to 2003, when Besiktas won 2-0 at the Bridge. Ironically, then Coach of Besiktas, Mircea Lucescu, is now Head Coach at Shakhtar, which is certain to give him belief in a game that, should they take a point, will see them all but qualified for the knockout stage.

Chelsea, the holders of the coveted trophy, will want to avoid becoming the first side to crash out of the Champions League as champions, but they require no less than two victories in their remaining two home games to avoid exactly that fate.

Should they fail to beat Shakhtar, and assuming that FC Nordsjaelland will be beaten in their remaining three games, then Chelsea would have to go to Turin and bring home with them at least a point to qualify from the group. Banking on getting a result in Italy would not be wise considering Juventus were until recently unbeaten in 49 matches across all competitions. That run ended this weekend with a 3-1 defeat by Inter.

The return of John Terry will be a boost to the Blues in this crunch Group E fixture, while Chelsea will also hope that Juan Mata and David Luiz are fit again after missing out on this weekend’s disappointing draw with Swansea City. Wednesday should see the re-uniting of the three defensive headaches, Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar, behind Fernando Torres.

The speed at which those three players have gelled this season is a big factor in why Chelsea are being talked about as contenders for the Premier League title. They bring a new edge to Chelsea that has eluded in the past with the ability to keep the ball comfortably and pierce defences with eye of the needle passes. Chelsea will be relying on this yet again against Shakhtar on Wednesday, where a win would ease the minds of everyone at the club and edge them closer to all important Champions League qualification.

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