Chelsea v Nordsjaelland Preview
Stamford Bridge, London
MATCH IN A SENTENCE: Chelsea have yet to win under new manager Rafael Benitez and have managed only a single goal in three matches—hardly the foundation on which to build for Wednesday’s match against Nordsjaelland, which the Blues must win in order to stand any chance of progressing to the Champions League Round of 16.
BREAKDOWN: Rafael Benitez has acknowledged his side could do with “a bit of luck” in their uphill battle to enter the Round of 16 draw on December 20.
The interim Chelsea boss was installed after the London side’s 3-0 demolition at Juventus two weeks ago, and with only three matches to become acclimatised to his new players—and they to him—Benitez acknowledges that an uptick in confidence would also do some good ahead of Wednesday’s must-win encounter with the Danish champions.
“I think the players are ready mentally—they are used to playing at the maximum level,” the Spaniard told reporters on Tuesday. “It’s just a question of a little bit of confidence. If we can start well and score a goal then it will be a little bit easier.”
Things would be rather more comfortable for everyone at Chelsea if striker Fernando Torres managed to find some form, but despite his woes since moving from Liverpool nearly two years ago he’s unlikely to be displaced from the starting lineup—something that will only increase the pressure on playmakers Oscar, Juan Mata and Eden Hazard.
Nordsjaelland, meanwhile, have yet to win in the club’s first foray into the Champions League group stage and have scored only three goals in their five matches so far, while conceding 16.
Nevertheless, manager Kasper Hjulmand is confident his side can take at least a point off their struggling hosts, and in his pre-match press conference he highlighted the importance of this European campaign to Nordsjaelland’s development.
“It’s always difficult the first time you go into Europe,” he said. “We have to remember this is the first time ever, not even in the Champions League, but in the group stage. The experience is huge for us and we can build on that in the future.
Nordsjaelland are presently second in the Danish Superliga—nine points behind leaders Copenhagen.
Chelsea, tied for third in the English Premier League, require all three points on Wednesday and a Shakhtar Donetsk win over Juventus in order to progress to the Round of 16.
ESSENTIALS: Chelsea captain John Terry is still out with a knee injury, and Frank Lampard (calf) is unavailable as well. Forward Daniel Sturridge is sidelined with a hamstring problem.
Nordsjaelland are without defender Jores Okore and striker Morten Nordstrand, both of whom are injured.
KEY BATTLE: Joshua John is one of the top goalscorers in Denmark this season and will line up on the left-hand side of the Nordsjaelland attack. That will set up a head-to-head with Chelsea’s Spanish right-back Cesar Azpilicueta, who has impressed in recent matches but is just 23-year-old with one Champions League appearance under his belt.
FORMATIONS: Benitez will deploy a 4-2-3-1 formation with Torres up top and Mata, Oscar and Hazard in support. Hjulmand will also go 4-2-3-1 with Mikkel Beckmann, Soren Christensen and John in behind striker Kasper Lorentzen.
BETLINE: Chelsea 1/12; Draw 10/1; Nordsjaelland 25/1. Juan Mata scored twice as Chelsea won 4-0 at Nordsjaelland in the reverse fixture on October 2.