The pressure is really on for Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo and his Blues against Shakhtar Donetsk at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.
Who: Shakhtar Donetsk at Chelsea
What: UEFA Champions League Group Stage
Where: Stamford Bridge, London, England, United Kingdom
When: Wednesday, November 7, 2012
Weather: The Weather Channel forecast
Television: Sky Sports 3/HD (UK), Fox Soccer Plus, Fox Soccer 2Go, DirecTV (USA)
Rebroadcasts (FSC, ET): Nov. 7, 4 p.m., Nov. 10, 4 a.m., Nov. 13, 7 a.m.
Worldwide Live Streams and TV Channels: LiveSoccerTV link
2-Way Pick Odds: Chelsea Pick -210, Shakhtar Donetsk Pick +170
2-Way 0.5 -Goal Odds: Chelsea - 0.5 -110, Shakhtar Donetsk + 0.5 -110
3-Way Odds: Chelsea -110, Shakhtar Donetsk +300, Draw +250
Total: Over 2.5 -130, Under 2.5 +110
Source: LVH SuperBook (Las Vegas, Nevada)
Decimal Odds: Chelsea 1.90, Shakhtar Donetsk 3.90, Draw 3.50
Decimal Total: Over 2½ 1.80, Under 2.5, 1.90
Fractional Odds: Chelsea 9/10, Shakhtar Donetsk 27/10, Draw 5/2
Fractional Total: Over 2½ 4/5, Under 2½ 9/10
Source: sportsbook.com (Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles)
Odds To Win Champions League: Chelsea 14-1, Shakhtar Donetsk 22/1
Source: Cantor Gaming (The Palms, Las Vegas, Nevada)
On Wednesday we will see what Chelsea is really made of.
The Blues welcome Shakhtar Donetsk to Stamford Bridge in what could be considered a must-win situation—or at least a must-not lose situation—in a Group E rematch of their disappointing 2-1 loss on Oct. 23 in Donbass Stadium in Ukraine.
A quick look at the current Group E standings reveals that even with a win, Chelsea would still be in a battle atop the group with Shakhtar, who would then be tied with the Blues with seven points while Juventus—who will likely get all three points at home in its match with FC Nordsjælland at home in Turin—should be just one back with six points heading into the last two games in this group stage.
But a Chelsea loss in this one, combined with a likely Juventus win means the Blues would then be two points back of Juventus and six points behind Shakhtar with only games at Juventus (Nov. 20) and at home against FCN (Dec. 5) left to play.
So it’s pretty clear this is probably the most important game for Chelsea since its UEFA Champions League final thriller against Bayern Munich on May 19 it needed to win just to qualify for this tournament this time around.
If the defending European champions are going to beat the defending Ukrainian Premier League champions Shakhtar in this one, they are going to have to do so without the services of sensational left back Ashley Cole who has been ruled out with a hamstring injury.
No doubt Blues manager Roberto Di Matteo will likely use Ryan Bertrand as Cole’s replacement.
What will the final result be in this match?
Chelsea, which is is 5-3-1 in its last nine Champions League matches, will hope to have playmaker and English Premier League Player of the Month Juan Mata and center back David Luiz—both nursing injuries—back in its starting 11 while vice captain Frank Lampard (calf injury) is slated to miss this match.
Di Matteo knows his boys will need to be in top form against feisty Shakhtar.
"I think we will need to be at our best. We need a perfect game," the Chelsea skipper said in an interview. "Every player on the pitch needs to perform at the highest of their ability.
"In Donetsk their early goal helped them massively. It's important we start well and get the crowd behind us and draw confidence from a good start."
But slowing down Shakhtar, who has a quartet of talented Brazilians in Willian, Fernandinho, Alex Teixeira and Luiz Adriano along with Armenian sensation Henrik Mkhitaryan, will be no easy task—at Stamford Bridge or not.
Shakhtar manager Mircea Lucescu has done a fantastic job leading his team to another great start in the UPL (14-0-0, 41 goals for, 6 goals against)—where it has now won 30 straight matches—and goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov has been a big part of the club’s success and almost notched a shutout against the Blues a fortnight ago.
Like in last season’s Champions League, Chelsea will have to rely heavily on its’ goalkeeper, Petr Čech, being in his usual top form on Wednesday to secure the much-needed three points.
The Spaniard momentarily looked to be coming out of his funk to start the new top flight season but seems to have regressed back into that mass of frustration he was for the majority of the 2011-12 season.
With rumors of Radamel Falcao and other strikers being sought after, there would be no better time for then now and this match in particular for El Niño to play one of his best games in a Blues’ uniform.
If Torres is again non-existent and Di Matteo doesn’t choose to use Danny Sturridge for a respectable number of minutes, then it will be up to Mata, Eden Hazard, Oscar and possibly Victor Moses to pick up the majority of the slack on offense for Chelsea.
And what strangely might come into play is whether or not Blues’ defenders, who have done a tremendous job of putting the ball in the back of the net so far, can score a goal of their own here in west London.
Although possibly rewarding in the end, this match will be a tough one for blue-bleeding Chelsea supporters to watch with so much at stake as a loss or even a draw would put much pressure on it to win its final two games in the group just to stay in the hunt.
No matter what, this one should be an example of Champions League football at its best.
To follow it here on Bleacher Report, be sure to check in to Joe Tansey’s Live Blog for all of the action.
Possible starting XI’s:
Chelsea: Čech; Ivanović, Luiz or Cahill, Terry, Bertrand; Mikel, Ramires; Hazard, Mata, Oscar; Torres
Shakhtar Donetsk: Pyatov; Srna, Kucher, Rakitskiy, Raț; Fernandinho, Hübschman; Mkhitaryan, Willian, Teixeira; Adriano
PREDICTION: Chelsea 2 Shakhtar Donetsk 1
Follow me on Twitter: @KevinStott11