Chelsea hoping for no Champions League hiccup against Maribor
Diego Costa’s injury issues have dominated the build-up to this Group G Champions League encounter between Chelsea and Maribor, with Jose Mourinho embroiling himself in another club vs country debate, which seems to be the theme of the moment.
Chelsea host the Slovenian side at Stamford Bridge, where the Blues remain unbeaten in all competitions, making them overwhelming favourites and odds-on with Coral at 1/7 to win. Mourinho’s victory machine has conceded just once, and netted eight, in their last four outings, so are enticing value in Coral’s matchday special at 3/1 (maximum stake £20) to win by scoring four or more goals.
Maribor’s men (18/1 to claim Chelsea’s scalp) certainly have the potential to upset the apple cart, though, and be the surprise package to spoil Mourinho’s ridiculous home record. The Purples’ pretenders are biting at the Blues’ heels to qualify from the pool in Group G, which is still up for grabs.
Visiting manager and Maribor legend Ante Simundza has already steered his largely-dismissed side of minnows to draws against Schalke and Sporting Lisbon, and are 13/2 to split the spoils again. Chelsea have certainly illustrated that they can be fallible in Europe, after being held by the Bundesliga boys from Gelsenkirchen in their opening game.
Mourinho’s main concern is Spain striker Costa’s continued presence on the injury table. Without their formidable forward, the Blues have looked almost as blunt in attack as last term.
Costa’s international teammate Cesc Fabregas stepped up to score in his absence last time out, firing home the winner in Chelsea’s 2-1 victory over Crystal Palace and also grabbed the only goal against Schalke. The Spaniard, who has seven Premier League assists this campaign, is 13/2 to close scoring again against Maribor.
In a boost for the Purples, Mourinho’s men will be without super-sub Andre Schurrle and Brazil midfielder Ramires as well as Costa, but the London elite will apparently not be resting players ahead of their upcoming clash Manchester United.
The bullish Blues boss, however, claims to view the inconvenient absences of Costa and co as “an opportunity” for other players, with hard-working wingman Willain and Loic Remy (3/1 to bag a brace or better) set to start, and Didier Drogba also due to feature.
Speaking of Costa’s injury and the perils of international breaks, Mourinho stated: “It’s the same problem that he’s been having. He cannot play tomorrow but I don’t have any idea how long he will be out for.
“There are no laws to protect players [on international duty]. It’s just the mentality of the national teams and their coaches-it’s up to them whether they want to take good care of the players or treat them in a selfish [way].”
Simundza, meanwhile, will be feeling no fear as he takes his tenacious team to west London, having lost just three times in 18 games in all competitions so far this term.
Club record scorer and skipper Marcos Tavares is available at 4/1 to net anytime and shock Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Meanwhile, fellow forward and promising 18-year-old Luka Zahovic is also 4/1 to be on target over the 90 minutes, after scoring three times in his last two outings for the Purples.
Mourinho himself will certainly not be underestimating the visitors, stating: “The results tell you a lot. When you don’t lose at Celtic Park, when you don’t lose in Gelsenkirchen, that tells you they’re a difficult team.”