Champions League: Group E preview

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Football News

On Thursday afternoon, the draw for the Champions League group stage was made.

Chelsea, winners in 2012, were given what some people may see as the easiest ride out of the four English teams competing in the tournament after landing Schalke 04, FC Basel and Steaua Bucharest in Group E. 

Here we have a look at what Chelsea can expect from their opponents:

FC Schalke 04:

Chelsea have only ever met the German side twice before, and it was during the 2007/2008 group stage.

That season Chelsea won their home fixture 2-0 and drew away in Germany 0-0, so Schalke have never actually put the ball in the back of Chelsea’s net as of yet.

Last season, Schalke were chasing Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga up until November but the form of Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen improved and Schalke ended up finishing in the final Champions League spot.

They overcame Greek side PAOK in the play off stage to reach the group stage, but in the league their form has raised question marks.

Currently, they sit 16th in the league with only one point from their opening three games, and with nine goals conceded, Schalke already currently share the joint-worst defensive record in the league.

Today, they are reportedly on the verge of signing playmaker Kevin-Prince Boateng from AC Milan, so they will be hoping that African start can help rejuvenate their season.

A trip away to a German side is always difficult, but Jose Mourinho knows just as well as anyone how to shape a side for a tough European fixture.

FC Basel:

The last time these two sides met was as recently as last season, when Chelsea and Basel were drawn together in the semi-finals of the Europa League.

The first leg in Switzerland was a close encounter that was hanging in the balance until stoppage time when Chelsea defender David Luiz stepped up to ping a trademark free-kick into the back of the net to send Chelsea into the second leg at Stamford Bridge with a 2-1 lead.

In the second leg, Basel took the lead through Salah, but in the second half Chelsea reacted and goals from Fernando Torres, Victor Moses and Luiz made light work of the Swiss side.

Then, of course, Chelsea progressed to the final where they beat Benfica to pick up their second European title in as many years.

Basel, the current champions of Switzerland, sit fourth in the table after six games with only two victories to their name.

With Chelsea favourites to win the group, Basel will need to make sure they pick up maximum points in their fixtures against Steaua Bucharest if they want to progress from the group stage.

Steaua Bucharest:

Once again Chelsea will come up again a team they faced in the Europa League last season in the form of Romanian side Steaua Bucharest.

Last season, Steaua actually beat Chelsea in Bucharest 1-0 in the first leg of their tie. Interim manager Rafa Benitez hadn’t fielded the strongest side and paid for that arrogance when his side failed to score in Romania.

When they played host to Steaua in the second leg, Benitez didn’t make the same mistake again and fielded a much stronger sidr. Juan Mata gave the hosts the lead, but Chelsea fans were made to sweat again when defender Vlad Chiriches levelled the scoring.

A goal from John Terry encouraged the Blues to fight back and eventually striker Fernando Torres scored the goal that would send Chelsea through – then later missed a penalty.

Steaua, like Basel, are the current champions in their league, but they currently sit fifth. They won’t be worrying too much, however, as they are only four points behind with two games in hand.

It will be a tough tie for Chelsea flying to Romania to compete in the hostile atmosphere, but hopefully they will have learned their lesson from last time.

Overall it isn’t an easy group, as no group is ever easy. But Mourinho will have had a slight smile on his face when he compared his group to those of Manchester United, Manchester City and Arsenal.

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