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Chelsea vs. FC Nordsjælland: An Early Must-Win for Blues in Champions League?

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 19:  Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo looks on during the UEFA Champions League Group E match between Chelsea and Juventus at Stamford Bridge on September 19, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Clive Rose/Getty Images
Kevin StottSenior Analyst ISeptember 30, 2012

After having to settle for a 2-2 draw with Juventus in its UEFA Champions League Group E opener at Stamford Bridge on September 19, Chelsea needs to come away with all three points in Copenhagen on Tuesday against FC Nordsjælland.

It may seem a bit too early in the tournament to consider a match a must-win, but a loss or another draw here would leave the Blues with either one or two points in the group and an uphill climb in its remaining four matches.

Oddsmakers have opened the European champions a -277 favorite (sportsbook.com), with the Wild Tigers a robust +675 home underdog and the draw at +375. The total in the match is over 2½, -153.

On Saturday, Chelsea edged Arsenal 2-1 at Emirates Stadium in a London derby that guaranteed the Blues would stay atop the English Premier League for at least another week. The Blues looked quite impressive, with Fernando Torres and Ramires shining and Petr Čech, John Terry and Juan Mata all being their usual spectacular selves to help snap a three-match losing streak to the Gunners.

In its Champions League opener, FC Nordsjælland lost 2-0 to group-leader Shakhtar Donetsk at Donbass Arena in Ukraine, and the Wild Tigers and manager Kasper Hjulmand will likely need a miracle to advance if they lose this one to the Blues, as they will then remain at the bottom of the group standings with zero points.

Against Shakhtar Donetsk, FCN employed a 4-3-3 formation with Jesper Hansen playing in goal and Kasper Lorentzen, Mikkel Beckmann and Joshua John in their front-line attack.

Defending first-time Danish Superliga champions FC Nordsjælland—which has no players on its roster who have ever played in the prestigious tourney before this season and are participating in the Champions League for the first time—were ousted from the UEFA Europa League in the opening round last year by Sporting Lisbon when it lost the second leg 2-1 in Lisbon after drawing 0-0 at home in Leg 1.

And trying to get some more detailed information on FC Nordsjaelland from their official website that led to a few laughs when translated from Danish to English which I thought I would share with you devoted readers here.

No doubt much was lost in the translation from a recap there of its first league match against Esbjerg fB as is revealed by the headline Mtiliga: Huge chance I burn” and some of the accompanying text:

“One of the players who were particularly annoyed after the game was Patrick Mtiliga that shortly before the time burned a great chance inside the small field. There could happily grines the burnt chance, but probably only because the FCN at the time was lead by 3-0.”

Now I can figure out most of it by its context, but the “there could happily grines the burnt chance” part translated to “just be happy with your burnt toast Bubba” to me, and when they used the word smågrinende as an adjective before Patrick Mtiliga's name a little later, I was forced out on to to the patio to smoke a cigarette and then quickly threw my cat into a headlock from all the Danish angst it created.

I am just kidding, brother. No animals were harmed in the creation of this story. Only a few brain cells possibly. And I may have gotten a little smågrinende on my pants in the process.

But don’t worry about me. I’ll be alright. I think.

God only knows how this story would translate from English to Danish, but I know one thing—it would probably make even less sense and may start some unnecessary international conflict, so if you’re reading this in Copenhagen, please accept my sincerest apologies in advance and be looking for a fruit basket in the mail in the next week.

Anyway, back to Earth and back to the match, Mr. Featured Columnist. Please.

With a home league match against Norwich City to follow on the schedule on Saturday, Blues manager Roberto Di Matteo can be somewhat flexible in his starting XI choices against the Wild Tigers, who are historically very hard to beat on their home soil.

But with Daniel Sturridge still possibly not 100 percent with his hamstring injury, I expect Torres to start again at striker, and with a win and three points of great importance here, Čech will most likely be in goal.

Strategy-wise, expect Chelsea to be aggressive offensively and Frank Lampard to be in the holding midfield if he is healthy. The Blues should be leading at halftime, and a clean sheet in this one is a strong possibility.

For those in America who want to watch the game live, Fox Soccer Plus will be broadcasting the match at 2:45 p.m. ET/11:45 a.m. PT, and if you don’t subscribe to that, Fox Soccer Channel will be airing it on tape delay at 5 p.m. ET/2 p.m. PT.

After having to do everything just right—including advancing against Barcelona at Nou Camp in the semifinals and beating Bayern Munich in Munich on penalty kicks in the final—to simply qualify for the Champions League this season, expect Chelsea to get the job done in Copenhagen with a potentially tough road match against group leader Shakhtar Donetsk up next in the group on October 23.

Now pray for me that the spell check doesn't blow up.


Prediction: Chelsea 3, FC Nordsjælland 0


Follow me on Twitter: @KevinStott11

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