Football News

Champions League Group E Preview: Testing times for Chelsea

Created on Nov. 06, 2012 9:53 AM EST

Defending champions Chelsea face their most important game of the Champions League group stage when they host Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday.

The Blues have collected just four points from their opening three games and sit second in the group, three points behind the Ukrainian side who beat them 2-1 on matchday three.

Chelsea, though, will head into this game with the knowledge that losing is not an option as Italian champions Juventus just one point behind them in Group E.

After a strong start to the season, Roberto Di Matteo's side have hit a spell of indifferent form recently with a loss and a win against Manchester United in the Premier League and Capital One Cup respectively preceding a disappointing 1-1 draw against Swansea on the weekend, a result which saw United overtake them at the top of the Premier League table.

The home side will be buoyed by the expected return of playmaker Juan Mata who sat out against Swansea last weekend with a hamstring injury. The diminutive Spaniard has been an integral part of Chelsea's side this season, scoring seven goals and laying on eight assists in all competitions so far, and his inclusion would be a massive boost to the home side.

Defender David Luiz is also a chance to play against Shakhtar after missing the Swansea game with a hamstring injury of his own, however captain John Terry is no certainty after missing the past four Premier League games due to suspension.

Meanwhile, Shakhtar are yet to lose this season with a 1-1 draw against Juventus on matchday two the only points they have dropped in all competitions.

The Ukrainian outfit defeated bottom side Metalurh Zaporizhya 2-0 on the weekend, with goals from Douglas Costa and Luiz Adriano helping them move 12 points clear at the top of the Ukrainian Premier League table.

And despite the fact Shakhtar have never won a game on English soil, Mircea Lucescu's men will be confident they can get something out of Wednesday's encounter after they outplayed Chelsea for large portions of their matchday three encounter.

Brazilian pair Fernandinho and Willian were particularly impressive that night and if they can replicate that type of performance at Stamford Bridge the Ukrainians will pose all sorts of problems for the Blues.

In the group's other game, Italian giants Juventus host Danish champions FC Nordsjaelland in a must-win encounter for both sides.

Juve were held to a surprising 1-1 draw by the Danes on matchday three and will need to bounce back in Turin to keep their Champions League campaign alive.

They head into the game off the back of their first league defeat in 538 days, losing 3-1 to bitter rivals Inter Milan on the weekend, and although there is an obvious gulf in class between the sides, the draw at Farum Park last time out will remind the Italians their opponents are not to be taken lightly.

Nordsjaelland go into Wednesday's clash fresh from a 2-1 win over SonderjyskE in the Danish Superliga which ensured they stayed within four points of top side FC Copenhagen.

Kasper Hjulmand's side know that nothing less than a win will do if they are to stay alive in their first Champions League campaign, with the Danes propping up Group E on one point.

A win, however, would see them leapfrog Juventus into third and give them a genuine chance of shocking the football world and qualifying for the knockout stages.

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