Di Matteo faces the first roadblock in the Blues Champions League defense
Time and time again, Chelsea looked adversity in the eye and triumphed during last season’s improbable run to Champions League glory. Three matches into their Champions League 2012 campaign, the Blues again find themselves facing a “must-win” situation.
This time it’ll be against Shaktar Donetsk in their Wednesday night Group E fixture.
A disappointing 2-1 defeat against the Ukranian side left Chelsea with a very real possibility of becoming the first defending champions to fail to advance from the group stage. Only another lackluster effort from Juventus—a 1-1 draw against Nordsjaelland—kept Stamford Bridge from breaking out into a full-fledged panic.
At 1-1-1 the Blues are in sole-possession of second place in the group with four points. They’re three points behind Shaktar Donetsk and lead Juventus by a single point.
With only three group stage fixtures remaining, Wednesday’s showdown in London can go a long way in determining the outcome of the group.
A Chelsea win would propel the side to the top of the group and essentially guarantee the Blues a spot in the knockout stage. On the other hand, a draw or tie will leave Chelsea’s destiny in the hands of the other teams in the group.
The latter isn’t something manager Roberto Di Matteo even wants to think about as his recent comments on the importance of this fixture have shown.
After a week of turmoil in London the Blues could certainly use a boost.
Following a controversial 3-2 defeat to Manchester United on Oct. 28, Chelsea have found themselves hogging all the national headlines. Not because the result marked the first defeat of their league campaign, but because of the racial abuse allegations the team has launched against match official Mark Clattenburg.
Is winning the only option against Shaktar Donetsk
The distractions seemed to cost Di Matteo’s side in a 1-1 draw against Swansea City this past Saturday. It was a result that dropped the Blues into second place in the table behind the Red Devils.
With a brilliant start to the season on the brink of unraveling in front of their eyes, Chelsea must step up to the plate and come away with a vital three points.
However, don’t expect the Miners to make it easy.
In 45 matches since Feb. 5, the Ukrainian Premier League champions have only lost one match. Conversely, after starting the season without a loss in 11 matches, the Blues have lost two in a span of five days.
The likely return of captain John Terry to the lineup after serving a four-match ban should help the cause. Midfield maestro Juan Mata is also set to suit up for Chelsea as well.
While the returning players will be a significant storyline, the biggest one may be the play of embattled striker Fernando Torres.
After a sensational run of form that saw him net three goals in a span of four matches leading up to the international break, the Spaniard has been held scoreless in three games since.
Even worse, the former-Liverpool striker has looked completely clueless. More specifically against Shaktar Donetsk in the reverse fixture.
If the Blues hope to gain control of Group E they will need their 50 million pound striker to rediscover his goal scoring form.
If not, Chelsea might not only see their Champions League hopes go up in smoke but their entire season as well.
Also check out: Could Torres and Falcao Thrive in the Same Chelsea Starting XI?
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