Preview: Chelsea boss Roberto Di Matteo has said that he will field a strong side as he looks to kick-start their Champions League campaign against Danish champions FC Nordsjælland.
The Blues surrendered a 2-0 lead against Juventus in their opening Group E match two weeks ago. Despite a fantastic strike from Brazilian Oscar, Chelsea could have few complaints about only taking a point and were perhaps fortunate that the impressive Italians spurned chances to get the victory.
While their results had been impressive, Chelsea’s place at the top of the Premier League table was in part due to a relatively soft schedule to begin the season. That was until this past weekend, when Chelsea put in arguably their most impressive performance and certainly their best result with a 2-1 victory over a previously-heralded Arsenal side.
Lauded for their greater creativity this season, Di Matteo’s team showed plenty of the resilience of old as they hung on for a potentially crucial three points. Integral to that performance was the greater dynamism that Ramires provided in the center of midfield alongside John Mikel Obi. With veteran Frank Lampard paired with the Nigerian, Chelsea have often been overrun through the middle, not least against Juventus.
After the furore that Lampard’s exclusion from the side caused previous boss Andre Villas-Boas last season, Di Matteo has been quick to emphasize that the 34-year-old still has a big future at the club. Against perceived weaker opposition on Tuesday, Lampard is likely to return.
For Nordsjælland, the prospect of welcoming the Champions League winners is already something of a dream. The club from the North Zealand town of Farum won the Danish Superliga for the first time in their history last season to earn their place among the elite of European soccer. The minnow-status of the club is illustrated by the fact that Nordsjælland have been forced to move their home games from Farum to FC Copenhagen’s Parken Stadium.
An opening 2-0 defeat at Shakhtar Donetsk means that Kasper Hjulmand’s side are already under pressure to get a result should they want to continue their continental adventure beyond the six games.
FC Nordsjælland (probable)
D: Parkhurst, Okore, Runje, Mtiliga
M: Adu, Stokholm
Lorentzen, Christiansen, John
D: Azpilicueta, Luiz, Terry, Cole
M: Lampard, Mikel
Oscar, Hazard, Mata
Prediction: While the increased capacity should ensure greater support, Nordsjælland may suffer from not playing in the familiar surroundings of home. Chelsea should travel to Copenhagen and put in a professional performance which will be enough to come away with the three points.
FC Nordsjælland 0-2 Chelsea