Who: Chelsea FC vs. FC Steaua Bucharest
What: UEFA Champions League, Group Stage, Matchday 6
Where: Stamford Bridge, West London, England, United Kingdom
When: Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Weather: The Weather Channel Stamford Bridge forecast
Time: 7:45 p.m. GMT/2:45 p.m. ET/11:45 a.m. PT
TV: Fox Sports Plus, Fox Soccer 2Go (USA); Sky Sports 3/HD, Sky Go UK, Sky Sports Events Centre, NOW TV powered by Sky, Sky Sports Red Button (UK).
Rebroadcast: Fox Sports 2, 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT (US)
Worldwide Live Streams and TV Channels: LiveSoccerTV.com
Radio: SiriusXM FC SIRI 108 (Sirius Internet 965)
Referee: Gianluca Rocchi (Italy)
3-Way Odds: Chelsea -550, Steaua Bucharest +1400, Draw +600
Total: Over 3½ +120, Under 3½ -155
Decimal Odds: Chelsea 1.18, Steaua Bucharest 15.00, Draw 7.00
Decimal Total: Over 3½ 2.20, Under 3½ 1.65
Fractional Odds: Chelsea 2/11, Steaua Bucharest 14/1, Draw 6/1
Fractional Total: Over 3½ 6/5, Under 3½ 20/31
Alternate Line: Chelsea -1½ -170, Steaua Bucharest +1½ +130
Alternate Line: Chelsea -2 Even, Steaua Bucharest +2 -130
Odds To Win Champions League: Chelsea 14/1, Steaua Bucharest N/L
Source: Bovada (Kahnawake, Canada)
3-Way Odds: Chelsea -550, Steaua Bucharest +1500, Draw +600
Total: Over 3 -130, Under 3 +110
Source: LVH SuperBook (Las Vegas, Nevada, USA)
It’s certainly neither the sexiest nor the most important contest in this week’s wave of UEFA Champions League group stage games, but Chelsea-Steaua Bucharest will give the host Blues a chance to win Group E as well as try to exorcise some demons from Saturday’s humiliating 3-2 loss against Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium.
Chelsea (3-0-2) heads into the match on top of Group E with nine points, just one slim point ahead of second-place FC Basel 1893 (2-2-1, eight points) who will play third-place FC Schalke 04 (2-1-2, seven points) in Gelsenkirchen, Germany with both clubs still having a chance to advance in the prestigious European tournament.
The Blues have already clinched a spot in the knockout round and a win against Steaua (0-3-2, three points) on Wednesday would nail down first place in the group for the current Europa League champions while a Basel-Schalke draw would also give Chelsea top-spot in the group.
But it appears—as it almost always seems to be these days—that there is some real kind of drama going on over at Stamford Bridge with Blues manager Jose Mourinho bemoaning his strikeforce after the loss to the Potters in a story in the Daily Mail.
Whether or not it’s simply sour grapes or an overt public plea to Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich to splash some Russian oil cash on a big-name striker over the coming January transfer window, nobody really knows right now except The Special One himself.
But personally, it’s really hard for me to feel sorry for the Blues after deciding to send Romelu Lukaku out on loan (Everton) for a second straight season, shipping Daniel Sturridge to Liverpool a year ago and simply letting Didier Drogba go to Shanghai Shenhua when it was obvious the Chelsea legend wanted to stay in West London in the spring of 2012.
So, for now, the team will just have to roll with Fernando Torres, Samuel Eto’o and Demba Ba as strikers and hope for the best as Mourinho’s contention, “If we had eight, 10, 12 goals (from the strikers) we would be top of the league” is really more of a deep-seeded truth. But enough about the striker saga—let’s examine this Champions League game and see if there is any way to try to make a little money off of it.
In the first meeting in Romania, the Blues rolled past Steaua in a 4-0 win and dominated the shots (21-10), shots on goal (9-3) and time of possession (57-43 percent). Both teams head into this game in third place in their respective leagues with undefeated Steaua (9-5-0) having fallen from first to third place since their last meeting with Chelsea on Oct. 1 after registering four draws and a win in their last five Romanian Liga matches.
Even with a memorable upset of the Blues here at Stamford Bridge, Steaua will still finish at the bottom of the group.
In that victory in Bucharest, Chelsea got two goals from Ramires, one from Frank Lampard and benefited from a Steaua own goal in a convincing performance over the Ros-Albastrii and coach Laurentiu Reghecampf. But consistency from the Blues over the last couple of years has been virtually non-existent and after allowing three goals or more in consecutive games (Stoke, Sunderland) for the first time in an extremely long time, nerves are now a bit frayed at SW6.
With Chelsea not having to win, a little angry off a poor performance and the Blues usually reliable defence leaking goals like a sieve, taking a shot at the Over 3 (-130, LVH SuperBook) may be worth a look but if so, look for a 3 as there are both 3’s and 3½’s in the marketplace.
Health-wise, both teams are in a little bit better shape overall than in the first meeting but Chelsea’s David Luiz (knee) may not be available and Steaua’s Lucian Filip (leg) is out until at least February. One guy who may be back in his usual left back spot is Ashley Cole but predicting Mourinho’s starting XI’s this season has been a pretty difficult endeavour.
Expect Chelsea to come out somewhat aggressively on offense to try to control the game as they did in Romania but with Steaua having nothing to lose, Adrian Popa, Alexandru Chipciu and the visitors can, and likely will put their own pressure on Blues goalkeeper Petr Cech.
The Blues head into this match ranked a deceptive No. 4 in the latest UEFA club rankings with Steaua checking in at No. 52, and although these rankings seem to show a big gap in the two clubs, the Romanians can make their tournament complete with an upset of Chelsea in West London. At a robust +1400, a bet on Steaua and a Ros-Albastrii win would produce both bragging rights and a nice chunk of cash for the lucky gambler.
But winning on English soil for the Romanians even in this situation should prove to be too much and the Blues talented midfielders like Juan Mata, Eden Hazard, Oscar, Willian and Andre Schurrle should create enough chaos for Steaua goalkeeper Ciprian Tatarusanu and at least a couple goals to help Chelsea win the group.
The next game up on the Blues' schedule is a Saturday derby date with Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge in English Premier League play (NBC Sports Network, 10 a.m. ET/7 a.m. PT). The knockout phase of the Champions League begins on Feb. 18.
PREDICTION: Chelsea 3 Steaua Bucharest 1
BETS: Chelsea -1½ -170, Over 2½ -200 (Alternate line, Bovada)
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