No defending champion has ever been eliminated before the knockout rounds of the tournament and Chelsea will be eager not to become the first, but the currently trail Juventus and Shakhtar Donetsk heading into their sixth and final group match.
The only way that the West London club can progress through to the round of 16 is if they beat Nordsjaelland and Shakhtar topples the Italian champions. The Ukrainians, however, will perhaps line up an easier side given the fact they've already progressed through to the next round.
All Chelsea can do is try to beat Nordsjaelland and hope for the best when it comes to Shakhtar-Juventus—meaning that the Blues should field their strongest team possible when it comes to Wednesday night's Champions League match.
Let's take a look at all the last-minute team news and a potential starting side for Chelsea for when they take on FC Nordsjaelland.
The striker's poor form and goal-scoring inadequacies have been the subject of much discussion of late, with the Spanish international desperate to get back on the scoresheet—something he'll have a great chance of achieving against Nordsjaelland.
Manager Rafa Benitez, who saw Torres at his best during his Liverpool days, has full confidence that the striker will return to form and that he will start scoring goals soon for the club, speaking out at a press conference during the week (per The Guardian):
Fernando is a great player and his team-mates know he's a great player. If he's in the right position, they will play with him. If he's in the wrong positions, maybe not. I think he has more confidence and his team-mates know that he's trying very hard, and that is the main thing for me.
As a striker, you'd like him to score goals, but I would be happy to see the team winning even if Fernando is not scoring. Winning is the main thing.
Fernando will be an important player for us, is an important player for us. He will score goals and his confidence will go high again. The main thing is what you can see as a manager on the pitch and in training, and Fernando is doing a great job.
Torres will likely start against Nordsjaelland.
According to The Daily Mirror, Frank Lampard will not make the squad to play Nordsjaelland—failing to overcome the calf injury that has been troubling him lately.
Lampard was sorely missed in central midfield last week against West Ham, with their East London rivals running all over them in the middle of the pitch—leaving many to hope that he would be available for this must-win match for the Blues.
But, despite Benitez confirming that the veteran midfielder has been "training with the group for two days" he did say that it was "too early [to return] tomorrow".
Other players also unavailable
John Terry is believed to be close to returning to first team football, though he too will not be ready for the Blues clash against Nordsjaelland.
According to comments Benitez made via The Sun (h/t ESPN):
Terry will train part of the session on Monday [just passed] so hopefully will be close although, with the knee, you never know.
[Will they be ready to play] Sunderland? We will see. I will talk with them and then the doctor afterwards.
Daniel Sturridge is also out of action for the Champions League match with his hamstring injury, though he too could be available for selection on the weekend.
Potential Starting XI vs. Nordsjaelland
With that team news in mind, let's have a look and see if we can piece together the Blues starting lineup for their match against Nordsjaelland.
Petr Cech will start in goals as per usual for the Blues, and it's hard to see too many chances from the starting side that took on West Ham on the weekend other than the return of David Luiz into the central defenders role with Terry still absent.
His return to the side will likely push Branislav Ivanovic out on to the right flank, where he has played all five previous Champions League fixtures.
John Obi Mikel and Ramires will also both likely be used in central defensive midfield here, as they have been pretty much all season for the West London club. The absence of Lampard and the fact they will be looking to attack right from the whistle all but confirms their inclusion.
The attacking midfield and wingers look like the players everyone would expect to see, with Victor Moses playing most of the match against West Ham on the weekend—probably ruling him out for a starting berth in this one also.
Oscar was rested against the Hammers and has performed superbly through the Champions League season to date, and with Juan Mata and Eden Hazard, two of the most talented players in the tournament this season, it's hard not to justify their inclusion into this starting side.
Fernando Torres will start at the top of the attack, especially with the two weeks of chaos following Roberto Di Matteo resting the striker from their match against Juventus—it's unlikely to rear it's ugly head again this week. At least, we hope not.
How do you think the Blues will line up vs. Nordsjaelland?
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