Chelsea Discover Champions League Fate
On Thursday, the world's most prestigious club competition announced its group stages, pitting Europe's elite clubs against one another. The UEFA Champions League, which has been in the qualifications stage since early summer now gains more interest as the bigger clubs have entered the fold for the following months.
For Chelsea, it is another year of searching for the trophy they most desire, as last year's appointment of Carlo Ancelotti only saw them capture two trophies domestically. Ancelotti, who was brought in specifically for European glory, guided his team to only the round of 16 where former manager Jose Mourinho's Inter knocked them on 3-1 aggregate.
This year's campaign pits the Blues against two old foes and one new one as the team will entertain the likes of Olympique de Marseille, MFK Zilina and Spartak Moscow. Chelsea have played Marseille last in 1999-2000, winning 1-0 at home and losing away with the same scoreline. The team is the former club of Didier Drogba and are managed by former Chelsea midfielder Didier Deschamps.
MFK Zilina were the first club to play Chelsea after the takeover of Roman Abramovich in 2003. The Blues would beat them 5-0 on aggregate en route to the semi-finals.
This year's new comer to the Bridge is non other than Spartak Moscow. The most glorified and successful club in Russian soccer history, the Krasno-belye (The Red-Whites) return to the European stage after a four year absence.
The club has had some success in Europe, reaching the semi-final in 1990-1991 only to be coincidentally knocked out by Marsellie. The Moscow club does have ties to the city of London as they have sold players like Roman Pavlyuchenko and Stipe Pletikosa to Tottenham and Radoslav Kovac to West Ham United.
More recently the club has been rumored with a link for Chelsea's Yuri Zhirkov, but with the Russian transfer window set to close on Sunday it appears the former CSKA Moscow player will stay in blue.
Spartak's home stadium, Luzhniki, was the site of the 2008 final where Chelsea fell to Manchester United on penalties and Chelsea would like to leave the Russian capital with a win having lost to Lokomotiv the following year in the Russian Railways Cup.
Yours truly was raised on Spartak Moscow, but has since adopted Chelsea, figuring the two would never meet as they play in different countries, but that is no more as the two clubs are set to tangle. I predict both clubs to advance to the round of 16 with Chelsea being the obvious choice for top.
I will hide under my bed, however, once the boys from Moscow take on the Pride of London hoping for 0-0 draws.
The draws will be:
MSK Zilina away - Wednesday 15 September
Marseille home - Tuesday 28 September
Spartak Moscow away - Tuesday 19 October
Spartak Moscow home - Wednesday 3 November
Zilina home - Tuesday 23 November
Marseille away - Wednesday 8 December
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