Breaking Down Chelsea's Champions League Group E Opponents
The London club are familiar with two of those opponents as they beat both Basel and Bucharest on their way to the Europa League title last season. Schalke were the runners up in Chelsea's Champions League group in 2007/08, the year that they reached the final for the first time.
Schalke were knocked out of the competition by Barcelona that year and struggled to make it past the group stages for a few years. A 6-1 aggregate defeat to Manchester United in the 2011 semifinal is their best showing in the competition to date.
The German club will be favourites with Chelsea to get out of the group due to the strength of their squad. Kyriakos Papadopoulos, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Julian Draxler helped guide Schalke to a fourth place finish in the Bundesliga last season.
They have since added Kevin-Prince Boateng to their ranks after the midfielder grew tired of the Italian culture and moved home. These key players and their familiarity with the competition should see them secure second place in the group.
Basel have competed in the Champions League group stage four times since 2001. Their best run came in the 2011/12 season when they escaped from Group E, sending Manchester United into the Europa League. They went on to beat Bayern Munich in the first leg of their Round of 16 tie that year, before crumbling to a 7-0 defeat in the reverse fixture.
Basel’s ever-presence in Europe has not yet yielded success in the form of silverware, and it would not be surprising to see them fight it out with Steaua Bucharest for third place.
The Romanian side were knocked out of the Europa League at the second knockout stage by eventual champions Chelsea. They didn’t make it easy for the Champions League holders and scored an away goal to put the Blues under pressure.
Since then Vlad Chiriches, the player who got the away goal that gave them so much hope, has completed a move to Tottenham Hotspur.
Like Chelsea, the Steaua squad is made up of youngsters, with an average age of 25 years. This lack of experience will see them struggle, and their primary aim should be to clinch third place to qualify for the Europa League.
Chelsea will be fired up to put in a good showing in this season’s competition. They have, on paper, an easier group than the rest of of the British clubs. Their performance against Bayern Munich in the Super Cup was reminiscent of their title-winning season, and it would be a huge upset if they fail to emerge from Group E as comfortable winners.
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