This kick off is slightly early what with it being played in the darkest reaches of an Eastern European winter, so therefore we are treated to a Champions League double header in terms of viewing tonight as Antonio Conte’s men travel to Azerbaijan to face Qarabag.
These two sides met back on Matchday 1 and it was a night to forget for the Azerbaijani outfit as they were hammered 6-0 by Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. That result would have indicated that Qarabag were perhaps going to be the group whipping boys but since then they have turned in some respectable performances.
Most notably the pair of draws that they earned against Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid, they caused the 2014 & 2016 Champions League finalists no shortage of headaches and with that have put Atletico Madrid in the Europa League place with Qarabag hot on their tails.
For Atletico Madrid that can only be viewed as a consolation while for Qarabag it would be seen as a prize for their efforts in Europe this season. If they are to finish third in the group then they are going to need exact some revenge later on for the opening matchday drubbing at the hands of Chelsea.
Since a set of back to back wins in this season’s competition Chelsea’s form has stuttered they failed to win any of their clashes with AS Roma and subsequently conceded six goals in the process. Three in a frenetic draw at Stamford Bridge and three in a night to forget in the Italian capital.
Their Halloween trip to Rome was something of a nightmare as they were soundly beaten and with that gave up top spot in Group B. As things stand Chelsea look like they will still qualify for the Round of 16 but finishing in first place is now out of their hands.
They will have to hope that Atletico Madrid can do them a favour tonight to once again change the complexion of the group, one that if results do go Chelsea’s way could be blown wide open as we go into next month’s final matchday.
It was the final countdown for Tony Pulis on Monday as he was charge of West Brom for the final time at the weekend, Chelsea eased to a 4-0 win at The Hawthorns and that meant enough was enough for the Baggies’ owners who gave the Welshman his marching orders at the beginning of the week.
With Chelsea on the road then and on the road today, Antonio Conte has also made a point that the TV companies are doing him no favours as they also face Liverpool on Saturday evening but ultimately if you want to complete on multiple fronts these are sacrifices that you have to make.
The hope and expectation will be that they can get their business done early this evening so that key players can then be subbed off in preparation for Saturday but if Qarabag can cause problems like they did against Atletico Madrid then those plans will go out of the window.
I think Chelsea will have enough to come away from here with all three points and then they will have a keen eye at what happens in the group later tonight. It may well set up a winner take all game at Stamford Bridge on Matchday 6 between themselves and Atletico. An away win for me this evening.
Here is what social media thinks will happen – you can still vote on the outcome here
— Dan Tracey (@dantracey1983) November 22, 2017