Chelsea vs FC Basel Preview

Chelsea are the English team most likely to win the Champions League this season, according to Coral, and anything less than a win against FC Basel tonight will come as a shock to the system to the Stamford Bridge faithful.

With Jose Mourinho back in charge, hopes are high that Chelsea can repeat their 2012 triumph under Roberto Di Matteo and that optimism is reflected in the betting market; the Blues are 10/1 shots to win outright and 2/9 to progress to the knockout stage as Group E winners.

Certainly, this evening’s opener would appear to be a nice and gentle introduction to their campaign. Basel may be bidding to win the Swiss title for the fifth time in a row, but they are hardly European heavyweights. Chelsea beat them both home and away in the semi-final of the Europa League last May and would appear to be a class above.

But a few words of warning: Basel have shown themselves capable of punching above their weight in Europe in recent times. Two years ago they beat Manchester United and Bayern Munich at home in the Champions League (they also drew 3-3 at Old Trafford), while last year they knocked out Zenit St Petersburg and Spurs in the Europa League and were 1-0 up on the night and still level on aggregate at half time against Chelsea in the semi-final second leg.

Basel have danger men up front, notably their captain, 6’ 5” veteran striker Marco Streller, and young Egyptian winger Mohammed Saleh, the scorer of that shock opening goal at Stamford Bridge. Saleh is 16/1 with Coral to repeat the feat and 6/1 to score at any time.

But Chelsea should win this with a bit to spare before facing tougher assignments against Schalke in their very winnable group. There are still question marks surrounding their potency up front – they still seem light even with the recent acquisition of Samuel Eto’o – but they have an abundance of wonderful talent in midfield and, all in all, should again prove too strong for Basel.

Eto’o, Demba Ba and Fernando Torres head Coral’s market for first/last goalscorer for Chelsea, but defenders David Luiz (20/1, 7/1 to score at any time) and John Terry (25/1, 8/1) are always dangerous at set pieces and may represent better value.

Chelsea are 1/3 to kick off with a win (9/1 Basel, 4/1 the draw) and it should be fairly straightforward, although a goal-fest is not anticipated – maybe 2-0 (6/1).

Written by Jon Freeman