Chelsea welcome Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday desperate for a victory to a potentially nail-biting road to Champions League process. The Blues suffered defeat to their Ukrainian opponents two weeks ago to leave them on four points from three games.
Boss Roberto Di Matteo is counting on his side’s experience with crunch matches to see them through at Stamford Bridge.
“I think we need to be at our best,” he said, according to Chelsea’s official website. “We need a perfect game. Every player on the pitch needs to perform at the highest of their ability.
“We've had must-win games and tomorrow is another one like that,” he added. “We need to play a perfect game tomorrow against Shakhtar, but we are strong at home. We found that over many years and we will be fired up to win it.”
Chelsea are likely to need a much improved performance from two weeks ago when Shakhtar produced a hugely impressive performance and a 2-1 victory that, if anything, flattered Di Matteo’s men.
The Blues may well be counting on Shakhtar’s poor record in England that has seen them fail to win in four visits, losing three of those matchups.
Shakhtar are unlikely to be fazed by a trip to London, however. Mircea Lucescu has led his side on a 25 match unbeaten run and failing to win just twice in that run. In defense of their Ukrainian league title, Shakhtar have won all 14 of matches this season.
Lucescu has a full strength squad to select from for the meeting with Chelsea. The same is not true for his opposite number, Di Matteo, who will be missing Ashley Cole after the left-back picked up a hamstring injury in Saturday’s draw with Swansea.
Frank Lampard is still out, while David Luiz and the in-form Juan Mata will undergo late fitness tests.
D: Ivanovic, Luiz, Terry, Bertrand
M: Ramires, Mikel
Mata, Oscar, Hazard
Shakhtar Donetsk (probable)
D: Srna, Chygrynskiy, Rakitskiy, Rat
M: Hubschman, Fernandinho
Willian, Mkhitaryan, Teixeira
F: Luiz Adriano
Prediction: Chelsea should be more competitive against Shakhtar than two weeks ago, but it be unwise to think that the Champions League holders will simply roll over their opponents. Shakhtar have showed that, with a side that has grown together in recent seasons, they could not be ready to mount a serious challenge for the latter stages of Europe’s premier competition.
With plenty of players on both sides who are pleasing on the eye it should be an enjoyable matchup, with a strong possibility of the spoils being shared at the end of the 90 minutes.
Chelsea 2-2 Shakhtar Donetsk
Where to watch: The Champions League Group E match kicks-off at 2.45 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by Fox Soccer Plus, with a live stream available on FoxSoccer2Go.