How Chelsea Will Line Up Again Steaua Bucharest in Champions League Clash
Chelsea have the chance to erase the memory of their opening-match defeat as they return their attentions to the Champions League on Tuesday 1 October. The Blues travel to Romania to face Steaua Bucharest, whom they defeated 3-2 on aggregate in last season’s Europa League.
They had to come from behind on that occasion as a torrid performance in the Arena Nationala saw them go down 1-0 courtesy of a first-half penalty from Raul Rusescu. The eventual champions rallied, with three of the key players from Saturday’s Premier League draw with Tottenham Hotspur finding themselves on the scoresheet in a 3-1 victory at Stamford Bridge.
Juan Mata got the first goal back in March, and his game-changing performance on Saturday has guaranteed him a starting spot for the match in Bucharest. Jose Mourinho has declared himself pleased with the Spanish playmaker's progress in adapting his all-round game, telling the official Chelsea website:
I think this is the way players have to say I want to play, blah blah blah is not good, conversations with the press aren't good, what's good is the effort he made against Swindon, it's the way he changed the team in the second half and because of that I'm very happy and I can say with 72 hours in advance, he plays in Steaua Bucharest, he earned that himself.
Fernando Torres also found the net in the last meeting between these sides and will almost certainly start on Tuesday. The much-maligned striker put in an excellent shift at Tottenham before he was dismissed in the 83rd minute, but with the ban for a Premier League red card not extending to European competition he will get another chance to prove himself.
John Terry was almost certain of a starting spot even before his leveller at White Hart Lane. The main question in the back four is who his central-defensive partner will be. David Luiz had an awful time against FC Basel and was caught out of position more often than not. Although his marauding ways are sometimes worth risking, Mourinho has made it clear that nothing less than a win will do in this match. Gary Cahill will return to partner Terry in the heart of the defence.
Marco van Ginkel’s season-ending injury leaves the central-midfield options limited to just three players. Mourinho has preferred Frank Lampard and Ramires as his holding pair, and despite a rare John Obi Mikel goal against Fulham, this will likely remain the case in Romania.
As usual, the attacking midfield poses the biggest selection headache. Eden Hazard has put in some good performances so far, but his end product has been lacking. He has not travelled with the squad due to an unspecified injury, according to Chelsea's official site. Willian could get another chance to prove himself on the left, despite failing to cover himself in glory against Swindon Town. Oscar was ineffective against Spurs, but his affinity with the Champions League will see him retain his place.
Mourinho told reporters (h/t ESPN):
If we go there and do not win, we are depending on the results of our opponents in the group. We don’t want that, but I know what pressure is… (sic) The difficulty is when you lose the first game of the Champions League at home, it reduces the chance to have a second mistake. So we have to try and get the three points…(sic) I would be disappointed to play in the Europa League, so we have to get the win in Steaua Bucharest.
This XI have enough experience to produce the required result and will be well aware of the consequences of failure.
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