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FK Qarabag vs Chelsea Preview: Blues Looking to Secure Champions League Progress

European football is back on the agenda for Antonio Conte’s Chelsea, who make their longest-ever Champions League away trip as they head to Azerbaijan to face FK Qarabag. The home side have adapted to life in Europe’s premier club competition well after a difficult start. The Blues sit second in Group C, one point behind group leaders Roma and can secure their qualification for the knockout stages if with a win – provided other results go their way.

Crystal Palace vs Chelsea Preview – Blues Looking to Put Eagles to the Sword

Chelsea travel across London later looking to inflict yet more misery on lowly Crystal Palace and get their season back on track. The Blues struggled to cope with Manchester City’s all-action approach last time out, and with injuries to N’Golo Kante and Alvaro Morata, Antonio Conte will have to introduce some of his squad players against Roy Hodgson’s men.

Chelsea vs Manchester City Preview: Aguero Missing After Car Crash

Chelsea host top-of-the-league Manchester City on Saturday in the first Premier League heavyweight encounter of the season. The Blues sit three points behind both Manchester clubs in third place but come into the game following an impressive display against Atletico Madrid in midweek.

Sergio Aguero has been ruled out of the evening kickoff after suffering a broken rib as a result of a car crash in Amsterdam. Eden Hazard is expected to make his first league start of the season after his man-of-the-match performance on Wednesday.

Formation

Antonio Conte is likely to stick with a similar formation to that which served him so well against Atletico. Pep Guardiola’s free-flowing football may leave Chelsea packing their midfield, with Hazard and Alvaro Morata together up front. Chelsea deviated from their usual formation, opting for a 3-5-2 during their trip to Spain, with wide men Pedro and Willian dropped to the bench.

Team Selection

David Luiz is still suspended following a red card against Arsenal so capable deputy Andreas Christensen should line up alongside Ceasar Azpilicueta and Gary Cahill as a back three. Marcos Alonso should start once again but there could be question marks over the right wing-back position; we could see an impressive Davide Zappacosta come in to give Victor Moses a rest.

Tiemoue Bakayoko showed real steel in the Champions League by protecting his defence and allowing N’Golo Kante to roam – the most crucial combination for Chelsea to nullify City over 90 minutes. Further forward could see some changes to inject fresh energy; Cesc Fabregas added an extra body to the midfield, but we could well see a change here with the addition of Willian.

The Diego Costa hangover was well and truly shaken off thanks to Morata and Hazard combining fluidly last time out, so they have to start.

Predicted Starting XI

Courtois (GK)

Moses

Christensen

Cahill (c)

Azpilicueta

Alonso

Kante

Bakayoko

Hazard

Willian

Morata

Where the Game Will Be Won or Lost

Man City will want to dominate possession as they visit the champions and Conte might well allow them to have the ball and soak up the pressure. Manchester City have struggled in past years as soon as Aguero is not on the pitch, so he will be a huge loss. Kante and Bakayoko will be looking to set their steely base in midfield. If Chelsea can stifle City – and that’s a big if – Hazard and Morata could be deadly on the counter. Chelsea might look to pack the midfield once again and it will be interesting to see if Pep has a plan B to outwit the wily Chelsea manager.

Match Prediction

With all the talk of the Manchester clubs for the title, Chelsea will want to show that they are still champions – expect a robust display. Both teams have goals from all over the pitch so defensive nouse could be the order of the day, which the Blues have in spades. Could we see one of those brave 1-0 wins for the home team?

Atletico Madrid vs Chelsea Preview – Blues Must Be at Their Best to Stay Top

Chelsea travel to Madrid to take on Champions League specialists Atletico Madrid in what promises to be a fascinating encounter later this evening. The Blues sit two points clear at the top of Group C but will be fully aware of the defensive capabilities of Diego Simeone’s men and will have to be at their best to break them down.

The atmosphere at the Wanda Metropolitano promises to be electric, in Atletico’s first Champions League game in their new home.

Formation

Antonio Conte will not budge from his 3-4-3 formation that has served him so well domestically, and implementing it against FK Qarabag on match day one saw the Blues pick up a comprehensive 6-0 victory. With Atletico Madrid being notoriously difficult to break down, Conte will be hoping his creative influences within the team can pose sufficient problems for the Atletico defence.

Team Selection

Thibaut Courtois returns to the club that accommodated him on loan with his place as the Blues number 1 firmly cemented.

Andreas Christensen has been one of the star performers for the Blues this term and could flank the returning David Luiz and in-form Cesar Azpilicueta in the heart of Chelsea’s defence, with Gary Cahill set to miss out.

Marcos Alonso struggled at Stoke on Saturday but doesn’t seem to have much competition at left wing-back whilst the right-wing back debate continues with Victor Moses seemingly in pole position to start in the Spanish capital – despite Davide Zappacosta’s instant impact.

Integral to Chelsea’s success will be the stability in midfield, which N’Golo Kante and Tiemoue Bakayoko will need to provide to nullify the threats of Antoine Griezmann and company.

Creative opportunities against the notoriously resolute Atletico could be few and far between so Conte will be looking to Eden Hazard, Pedro and Saturday’s hat-trick hero, Alvaro Morata, to provide the firepower in what promises to be a game of few chances.

Predicted Starting XI

Courtois (GK)
Moses
Christensen
Luiz (c)
Azpilicueta
Alonso
Kante
Bakayoko
Hazard
Pedro
Morata

Where the Game Will Be Won or Lost

In front of their adoring home support, Atletico are one of the most difficult teams to encounter in European football. Their clinical forward players, coupled with stern defence, make it a daunting task for Europe’s elite and they have reached the final of the competition twice in the last four years. As always, N’Golo Kante will have to protect Chelsea’s back four in his usual combative style and it promises to be a big test for Tiemoue Bakayoko – although he demonstrated his capabilities in Monaco’s run to the Champions League semi-finals last season.

Match Prediction

Chelsea will be desperate to leave Madrid in their toughest-looking match of the group whilst Atletico will be eager to make up for the two points they dropped at Roma on match day one. With defence being the order of the day, these two European heavyweights could well cancel each other out.

1-1 Draw

Header image: “Champions League Ball” (CC BY-ND 2.0) by prakash_ut

Chelsea vs Arsenal Preview: Toughest Test of the Season So Far

Premier League action returns to Stamford Bridge tomorrow, with Chelsea taking on arch-rivals Arsenal in what promises to be one of the games of the season so far. The Blues look to have shaken off their early season worries – winning three tough-looking Premier League games on the bounce whilst Arsenal have struggled for consistency and would dearly love to put a marker down here.

Formation

Nothing seems to sway Antonio Conte away from his 3-4-3 formation – which is now being replicated by most of the teams in the Premier League. Having three at the back centrally seems to give the Blues plenty of security, both in and out of possession and as a result, the creative influences on the team (Hazard, Fabregas etc.) seem to benefit from being awarded more space in the middle of the field.

Team Selection

Conte gave a Champions League start to Thibaut Courtois, which is perhaps an indication of the importance he’s placing on European competition this season – and the Belgian will start again here.

Gary Cahill impressed in the Champions League in midweek and should return following a domestic suspension, whilst David Luiz and Cesar Azpilicueta should also feature in the heart of the defence.

Marcos Alonso has been in fine form and will retain his place at left wing-back but Conte has a decision to make at right wing-back. Victor Moses was the unsung hero of last year’s title-winning campaign but Davide Zappacosta has arrived from Torino and looks to be a serious contender for this position and impressed greatly against FK Qarabag on Tuesday evening.

N’Golo Kante will be keeping things ticking in midfield, whether that’s alongside Cesc Fabregas or Tiemoue Bakayoko is another call Conte will have to make with Danny Drinkwater still out.

Alvaro Morata has scored in each of his Premier League games at Stamford Bridge and will lead the line. Eden Hazard is now fit after recovering from his ankle injury and in contention with Willian and Pedro also vying for the two places flanking Morata up front.

Predicted Starting XI 

Courtois (GK)

Moses

Cahill

Luiz

Azpilicueta

Alonso

Kante

Bakayoko

Hazard

Willian

Morata

Where the Game Will Be Won or Lost

Both teams come into this game on the back of European wins and will be eager to make a winning return to domestic football.

Chelsea have a well-oiled formation and tactical setup that will allow them to control the game from the back and look to play balls in between the lines into the likes of Hazard and Morata. The width provided by the wing-backs could also be a determining factor in the game as they are integral to the way the Blues operate.

Arsenal are blessed with quality all over the pitch but have seemed to lack conviction this term – particularly away from home. Arsene Wenger’s men have lost both of their Premier League games on their travels this term and have looked vulnerable defensively – something Chelsea will be looking to exploit. Alexis Sanchez’s return could give the Gunners a huge boost going into this one, though.

N’Golo Kante is integral to Chelsea’s 3-4-3 formation.

Match Prediction

Both teams have lofty ambitions this term and whilst Chelsea seem to look stronger every week, Arsenal’s problems seem to be mounting up and the Blues should have too much for the Gunners here.

Chelsea to win 2-0.

Chelsea vs FK Qarabag Preview: Blues’ Long-Awaited Return to Champions League

Chelsea play their first Champions League fixture for two seasons on Tuesday night and look to have a favourable opening to proceedings in Group C. The Blues have reached the knockout stages of the Champions League on 13 previous occasions and will be eager to get three points on the board in a tricky-looking group containing Atletico Madrid and Roma.

Formation

Antonio Conte’s 3-5-2 formation is a hallmark of this Chelsea side and his charges seem to be in good form at present. Three consecutive wins against Tottenham, Everton and Leicester have propelled the Blues up to third in the Premier League table – behind the two Manchester clubs – and it will be interesting to see if the 3-5-2 line up works as well in Europe as it does domestically.

Team Selection

Conte has spoken of his desire to rotate the squad at every possible opportunity this season and this looks like the ideal fixture to use the whole roster at his disposal. Willy Caballero looks set to be given his debut in goal, following his free transfer during the summer from Manchester City.

Gary Cahill is also set to return after serving his three-game suspension in the Premier League following his opening-day red card at home to Burnley. He looks set to be flanked in central defence by summer signing Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen. Davide Zappacosta is lined up to make his home debut at right wing-back following his deadline-day move from Torino, whilst Marcos Alonso should retain his place at left wing-back.

N’Golo Kante is the first name on the team sheet in midfield and with Danny Drinkwater ruled out with a calf injury, Cesc Fabregas could be called upon to add some creativity in the middle of the park.

Conte has confirmed that Eden Hazard will start on the bench, meaning that Willian and Pedro could be given starting berths in support of the striker. Alvaro Morata’s form has delighted the Chelsea faithful, who had their concerns following the ousting of Diego Costa and he should get the nod here over Michy Batshuayi.

Predicted Starting XI

Caballero (GK)

Zappacosta

Christensen

Cahill (c)

Rudiger

Alonso

Kante

Fabregas

Pedro

Willian

Morata

Where the Game Will Be Won or Lost

FK Qarabag are the first team to ever qualify for the group stages of the Champions League from Azerbaijan and have come through three rounds of qualifying to reach this stage. They will be looking to make this game difficult for Chelsea but the Blues have a great record at home under Conte and should have too much for the Azerbaijani side here.

The creativity of Willian, Cesc Fabregas and Pedro will be important in order to break down the Qarabag defence and Gurban Gurbanov has already spoken of his desire to set up defensively at Stamford Bridge.

Match Prediction

The Azerbaijani champions have done extremely well to get to this point and they will have dreamt of nights like this – but Chelsea should have too much experience and guile here.

Chelsea to win 3-0.