Chelsea will be looking to gain an upper hand on Valencia in the race to qualify for the knockouts when they face each other in the Champions League.
Chelsea have been on song lately, sitting in the top four in the Premier League with a comfortable cushion over the next best placed team. But, the defeat to Manchester City doubled down the question of why Frank Lampard’s side has not been able to cut it against the top sides.
The focus will now shift to the Champions League, though, with Group H evenly poised. Chelsea, Valencia and Ajax are all on 7 points from 4 games and the match against Valencia could be the difference in a place in the knockout phase in the Champions League and one in the UEFA Europa League.
Valencia have gone through turmoil in the nascent part of the 2019-20 campaign. Valencia have improved upon their La Liga form and performances under the newly appointed Albert Celades. Now, Celades will hope to rally his troops to gain a spot in the Last 16 of the Champions League, which would be an unprecedented feat given the internal conflicts they went through.
Valencia had gained a narrow 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge and it will be interesting if Chelsea can exact revenge and gain a comfortable lead over the Spanish side going into the final gameweek of the Champions League.
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The injuries have piled on week after week for Albert Celades, who now has eight first-team stars either out or doubtful for the match against Chelsea. Jasper Cillessen is the only constant and will guard the Valencia goal on Wednesday. In what is expected to be a 4-4-2 setup, we could see Eliaquim Mangala come in for his first Champions League appearance this season.
Mangala is likely to partner Gabriel Paulista at centre-back, with Jose Gaya and Jaume Costa completing the back four, while Cristiano Piccini, Ezequiel Garay and Mouctar Diakhaby are out on the sidelines.
Geoffrey Kondogbia and Francis Coquelin are both doubtful for the game. Daniel Wass should partner club captain Dani Parejo in central midfield. Goncalo Guedes’s unavailability will be a huge blow for Valencia. Denis Cheryshev is also a doubt, which means we are likely to see the youthful wide-midfield pairing of Carlos Soler and Ferran Torres.
In-form duo Maxi Gomez and Rodrigo Moreno will be leading the Valencia attack against Chelsea.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Cillessen; Costa, Gabriel, Mangala, Gaya; Torres, Parejo, Kondogbia, Soler; Gomez, Moreno
Frank Lampard nearly has all his options available for selection barring Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who is still on the sidelines but is expected to be available soon. Antonio Rudiger has returned to training, but Lampard is unlikely to risk the German international. Ross Barkley and Callum Hudson-Odoi are both doubts and are not expected to start against Valencia.
Lampard, though, will field the strongest eleven he can, with a knockout spot up for grabs. Kepa Arrizabalaga should be in goal for Chelsea, with a back four of Cesar Azpilicueta, Fikayo Tomori, Kurt Zouma and Marcos Alonso to guard the away goal.
Jorginho should command the quarterback role in midfield, with the likes of N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic acting as box-to-box midfielders.
The front three is locked in stone, with Willian and Christian Pulisic the wide forwards and Tammy Abraham will lead the Chelsea line against Valencia.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Kepa; Azpilicueta, Tomori, Zouma, Alonso; Kante, Jorginho, Kovacic; Willian, Abraham, Pulisic
1. Valencia are yet to score in the first half of any of their 4 games so far in the 2019-20 Champions League.
2. Chelsea are looking to record three consecutive away games in a Champions League campaign for the first time since the 2003-04 season.
3. Valencia have failed to beat Chelsea at home in the three matches that have been played at the Mestalla.
4. Both the teams have had five unique goalscorers so far in the 2019-20 Champions League.
5. Jorginho is Chelsea’s top scorer in the 2019-20 Champions League with 2 goals to his name.
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The Valencia captain has been on fire this season for his club. The 30-year-old is the joint top-scorer for Los Che in La Liga, with 6 goals along with 2 assists to his name and has bailed his team out a number of times already. On Wednesday, the onus will be on him to provide not just the creative impetus, but the added attacking edge to the home side if they are to outdo a young and spirited Chelsea side.
Valencia 1-1 Chelsea
Both the teams are in need of a win on Wednesday at the Mestalla and it will likely bring out a bit of defensive mindset from Valencia. The home side will look to absorb the pressure Chelsea will pile on and are likely to count on the Blues’ youngsters making errors, counters and individual flashes of brilliance.
Chelsea want a win as well, but could also be happy to come out of it with a draw, with Valencia set to face Ajax in the last matchday compared to Chelsea, who will host Lille. Expect a cagey encounter with errors being the highlights on Wednesday. We are going with a share of spoils, but don’t be surprised by a narrow Valencia win.