Chelsea ready to shine in Romania
It’s a bit early for panic, but there is no doubt that there will be some very concerned faces around Stamford Bridge if Chelsea can’t come away from their Champions League encounter with Steaua Bucharest tonight with all three points.
Coral rate them 3/4 chances, a price that suggests that they should win without being anything like certainties. Jose Mourinho will also have one eye on how things pan out in Switzerland, where Basel (11/8), the team which put the 2012 European Champions into this mess a fortnight ago, take on Group E favourites, Schalke 04 (6/4), who beat Steaua 3-0 at home in their opening tie.
Chelsea beat Steaua on the way to their Europa League Cup triumph last season, but not without a fright, and the Romanian Liga 1 leaders are no pushovers. Schalke beat them comfortably enough in the end in Germany, but it took them a long time to get on top.
However, there are plenty of grounds for Blues’ fans to be positive and one reason is the sudden return to top form of striker Fernando Torres, who many thought had forever lost the qualities that once struck fear into defences all around the world.
Torres was a huge factor in Chelsea’s second-half revival against Spurs last Saturday and Mourinho will have less to worry about up front if the Spanish striker can deliver more of the same in the coming months.
He was sent off after receiving two yellow cards and might end up serving a four-match ban, but he is available tomorrow night; Coral go 9/2 that he scores first or last and 6/5 he nets at any time.
Mourinho received a lot of praise for his half-time substitution at White Hart Lane, although it was hardly rocket science to replace John Obi Mikel, who was having a bit of a shocker, with Juan Mata, Chelsea’s double player of the year.
Mata duly helped to change the game – no surprise to the many who had been clamouring for him to be on from the start – and it seems that the brilliant Spanish midfielder is beginning to win over his boss. He scores a few goals, too, and there would be nothing his army of fans would like more than to see him get on the scoresheet tomorrow (8/1 first or last, 11/4 any time).
Steaua have goal threats of their own, including striker Federico Piovaccari (7/1 to open the scoring), on the mark again in their recent 3-0 league win, but there was a great deal of promise in Chelsea’s second half display against a good Spurs side last weekend and I expect them to follow up that good work by getting themselves back into Group E contention with a badly needed victory, maybe 2-0 (8/1).
Written by Jon Freeman