With 12 wins and three draws from their first 15 matches this season, Chelsea’s start to the season could not have gone much better. Already four points clear at the top of the Premier League, on Wednesday the London side will be aiming to secure a place in the last 16 of the Champions League when they tackle Maribor in Slovenia. Victory over the side that they demolished 6-0 at Stamford Bridge two weeks ago, combined with failure for Sporting Lisbon to beat Schalke at home will see Chelsea safely progress.
Perhaps the only thing that can stop Chelsea right now is complacency. Certainly that’s the message manager José Mourinho appears to be delivering. After narrow wins over fourth-tier Shrewsbury Town in the League Cup and struggling Queens Park Rangers in the Premier League on Saturday, Mourinho was critical of his team’s performance. He also pulled no punches in demanding more from the club’s home support. Mourinho scaled back his comments on Tuesday, explaining that they were simply down to his burning desire for success.
“Maybe I go a little bit too far,” Mourinho said in his press conference. “But I see myself in the stands, watching Chelsea and I want to play, I want to help. If I’m not a player I cannot play, if I’m not a coach I cannot make decisions, if I’m just a fan what can I do to help? That’s just my view.
“Everybody at Chelsea Football Club knows how much I love the club, how much I want it to improve and be part of the club in the future. Everybody knows. Even a moment of criticism has to be analyzed with different eyes, with the eyes of somebody who knows why I came back to Chelsea and why I'm here with my heart, and why I want to stay for a long, long time.”
Chelsea will again be unable to call upon Loic Remy, as well as John Mikel Obi on Wednesday, meaning that Diego Costa could well start for a second game in succession. It may be, though, that with Chelsea in such a strong position, Mourinho decides to rotate his lineup.
The 6-0 loss to Chelsea in London came as a real gut-punch to Maribor after they began their first ever appearance in the Champions League group phase with commendable draws against Schalke and Sporting Lisbon. While their hopes of progressing are now slim, the Slovenian champions will still be desperate for any point they can get to at least continue their participation in Europe into the new year via the Europa League. Yet they find themselves in the midst of a poor run of form domestically, with two defeats in their last three league games, including going down 1-0 at home last Friday. They now sit fourth in the Slovenian's top division.
Prediction: Chelsea have certainly not hit the heights in their last two matches, and, ahead of a trip to Anfield to take on Liverpool on Saturday, they may not reproduce the emphatic victory of two weeks ago. Even if Mourinho selects a full-strength lineup, Chelsea may well take their foot off the gas in the second half, with a win likely to have already been sealed.
Maribor 0-2 Chelsea
Kickoff time: 2:45 PM ET
Live stream: Fox Soccer 2Go