Chelsea host Portuguese side Sporting Lisbon in their final group game of the UEFA Champions League tonight. The Blues have already clinched both qualification and the top spot in group G which could mean that they’ll rest a few first team players for the game.
Jose Mourinho’s men suffered their first defeat this season at the hands of Newcastle United and will want to bounce back against Sporting. That being said, it’s unlikely that the team that faced Newcastle will get the chance to do so today as Mourinho plans on giving the fringe players a run out.
Sporting’s qualification rests in their own hands as a draw will be enough for them to go through to the last 16 regardless of what Schalke do in their game against Maribor in the other game. A loss for the Portuguese side will still do if Schalke fail to register a win.
Tactics and probable lineups
Chelsea qualified for the knockout stages with a 5-0 win over Schalke in their last game and could take the foot of the gas when they face off against Sporting.
In the last game, Obi Mikel played instead of Matic in the week and could drop back to the bench for Ramires. Mourinho’s side missed the presence of Nemanja Matic in their last league game against Newcastle and it showed how much they have relied on the Serbian to have control in the midfield. Matic’s replacement, Mikel, could not play with the same amount of defensive solidity and was partly at fault for the first goal after failing to track Papiss Cisse. The Nigerian international could drop back to the bench to make way for Matic who could play alongside Ramires in midfield as Mourinho usually deploys a 4-2-3-1 formation with a creative deep lying playmaker playing alongside an out and out holding midfielder. With his pace and energy, Ramires could join in the attacks from a deeper position.
Brazilian attacking midfielder Oscar could start behind Loic Rémy in attack with Mohammed Salah and Andre Schürrle supporting on the wings. The duo have rarely featured for Chelsea this season and will want to impress the manager. Summer signing Loic Remy scored in his last Champions League game against Maribor and injured himself in the process.
Former Atletico Madrid left-back Filipe Luís was expected to be the 1st choice left back but has made just 12 appearances in all competitions so far as the good form of Cesar Azpilicueta has restricted the Brazilian to the bench. He is in line to start the game with Branislav Ivanovic operating as the right back. Captain John Terry could be given a breather and Kurt Zouma will replace him in the team.The 20-year old has impressed in his two Champions League appearances so far and is with a busy period coming up, he could play more often. Gary Cahill will partner the Frenchman at the back in front of veteran keeper Petr Cech who has rarely seen game time due to the brilliant form of Thibaut Courtois.
Probable starting XI: Čech; Ivanović, Cahill, Zouma, Filipe Luís; Mikel, Matić; Salah, Oscar, Schürrle; Rémy.
Sporting Lisbon manager Marco Silva will be without his influential winger Nani for the game against Chelsea, and it will be a big blow for them as the on-loan Manchester United man has been in brilliant form in the Champions league. Nani has scored four times and provided two assists in his five Champions League appearances.
Sporting will also be without the services of left back Jefferson who picked up an injury in their last game against Boavista.
Manager Marco Silva has gone with a 4-3-3 formation in the Champions League games so far and could go with a more cautious approach against Chelsea as they only need a draw to qualify. He deployed a 4-2-3-1 formation in their last league game and could do so against with Adrien Silva and William Carvalho playing as the central midfielders in front of the back four. Diego Capel and André Carrillo are expected to play as the wingers with Fredy Montero and Islam Slimani playing upfront.
Probable starting XI: Patrício; Esgaio, Maurício, Paulo Oliveira, Jonathan Silva; William Carvalho, Adrien Silva, Fredy Montero; Slimani, Capel, Carrillo.
- Schalke’s result against Maribor will be inconsequential if Sporting pick up a draw against Chelsea.
- Chelsea have won their past seven meetings against Portuguese sides.
- Sporting have a terrible away record in the competition as they have managed to win only one game on the road in the last 17 fixtures.
Players to watch out for
The German hasn’t had too many chances this season as Mourinho has preferred Willian over the World Cup winner. This game could be a perfect opportunity to showcase his talents as he’ll be up against the quick Ricardo Esgaio and the powerful William Carvalho who is being linked with a move to a big club.
The Portuguese has been linked with a host of clubs and will be key for his side in tonight’s game. As his side need only a draw, Carvalho will have to be really vigilant as Sporting could sit back and soak up the pressure, which gives us an ideal chance to see how Carvalho performs.
Despite Chelsea playing a relatively weaker side, it’s unlikely that they won’t win the game. Sporting will look for the draw but their defence could be opened by Oscar’s brilliant vision. If they do concede then they’ll have to go for an equaliser which could throw their gameplan out of the bag. The last time they met in Lisbon, Chelsea won the game narrowly through a Matic strike.
Chelsea 2-1 Sporting