Chelsea will aim to bounce back to winning ways in the UEFA Champions League when they welcome Malmo to Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.
The UEFA Champions League group stage will reach its midway point, with the curtains falling on Matchday 3 on Wednesday. Chelsea will be one of the teams in action, as they play hosts to Malmo FF at Stamford Bridge in a Group H tie, looking to returning to winning ways following their loss to Juventus last month.
Chelsea have wobbled a little early on in the defence of their UEFA Champions League crown, having barely beaten Zenit St Petersburg before going down 1-0 to Juventus on Matchday 2. Back home, though, the Blues have fared much better, as they sit atop the Premier League table, but were not in the best of forms this past even as they beat Brentford 1-0.
Malmo, on the other hand, have unsurprisingly been the bottom feeders in Group H of the UEFA Champions League, having lost each of their opening two games, shipping in seven goals without reply. However, like Chelsea, Di Blae have been in fine touch in domestic football, as they sit on top of the Allsvenskan standings, in what is proving to be an intriguing title race.
Chelsea have won each of the two games wherein they have locked horns with Malmo, scoring five goals while conceding just once en route to winning the UEFA Europa League back in 2019. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) October 19, 2021
Thomas Tuchel has been handed a double boost on the team news front ahead of the visit of Malmo FF. On Wednesday, the Chelsea manager will only be bereft of the services of two first-team players in the worst case scenario.
The two aforementioned possible absentees are Hakim Ziyech (illness) and Christian Pulisic (ankle), although the former is only a doubt. The good news comes in the form of the potential returns of Thiago Silva and Antonio Rudiger, both of whom have rejoined training ahead of the midweek fixture.
Silva ought to be fit enough to return to the starting lineup straightaway, having not been ruled out with any injury this past weekend, when he was only unavailable because he returned late from Brazil duty during the international break. As for Rudiger, it is likely that he will be given some time to regain full sharpness before being recalled.
So, with Silva the only player likely to return, the three-man central defensive unit should feature the veteran Brazilian, captain Cesar Azpilicueta and the in-form Andreas Christensen while in goal, there is no looking past Edouard Mendy, who will be riding a wave of confidence following a superb performance against Brentford on the weekend.
Azpilicueta moves into the back three as Reece James is fit and ready to return as the right wing-back. On the opposite flank, Marcos Alonso will get a chance to impress after recently losing his spot to Ben Chilwell. And in the middle of the park, Jorginho will possibly return, with Mateo Kovacic expected to be his partner.
Finally, in attack, Tuchel will have to take a tough call and possibly exclude Timo Werner, with Romelu Lukaku leading the line for Chelsea against Malmo. The Belgian international will be supplemented by Mason Mount and Kai Havertz, who will be desperate to make his mark after recently losing his place in the side.
Probable Lineup (3-4-3): Mendy; Azpilicueta, Silva, Christensen; James, Jorginho, Kovacic, Alonso; Havertz, Lukaku, Mount
Unlike his counterpart in the Chelsea dugout, Jon Dahl Tomasson has a number of roster issues hampering his preparations ahead of the trip to Stamford Bridge. On Wednesday, the Malmo boss will have to make do without five first-team players.
The major absentee for the visitors will be Anel Ahmedhodzic, wlikely to have ho is suspended after being sent off last time out against Zenit St Petersburg. In addition, Felix Beijmo (collarbone) and Oscar Lewicki (knee) are expected to be back in the fold later this month, but Jonas Knudsen and Ola Toivonen have possibly played their final game of the season.
Tomasson will set Malmo up in a 3-5-2 formation, with Johan Dahlin taking his place in goal. In front of the 35-year-old, Niklas Moisander, Franz Brorsson and Lasse Nielsen are expected to form the three-man central defensive unit, with the trio expected to remain compact when Chelsea bomb forward on their moves, hoping to isolate Romelu Lukaku from his teammates.
Erik Larsson and Jo Inge Berget will likely be the two wing-backs, with the duo in-charge of providing width whenever Malmo embark on their runs. The two wing-backs, though, will also be tasked with dropping back to form a back five when off the ball.
Veljko Birmancevic and Antonio Colak will form the strike partnership for Malmo, although the pair will largely spend time off the ball, feeding off scraps for the most part. In the middle of the park, Bonke Innocent, Anders Christiansen and Erdal Rakip will play a key role in stifling Mason Mount and his creative output.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Dahlin; Moisander, Brorsson, Nielsen; Larsson, Rakip, Innocent, Christiansen, Berget; Birmancevic, Colak
- Chelsea and Malmo FF faced in the Last 32 of the UEFA Europa League in 2018/19, with the English side winning both games and 5-1 on aggregate (2-1 away, 3-0 home).
- Chelsea have never lost to a Swedish side in UEFA European competition (W3 D3), avoiding defeat against Atvidabergs FF in the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1971/72 (D2), Helsingborgs IF in the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1998/99 (W1 D1) and Malmo in the Europa League in 2018-19 (W2).
- Chelsea have only lost two of their last 48 home UEFA Champions League group stage matches (W33 D13), losing to Basel in 2013/14 and Valencia in 2019/20.
- Thomas Tuchel has only lost one of his 13 home group stage matches (W10 D2): a 2-1 defeat to Manchester United as PSG manager last season.
- This will be Thomas Tuchel’s 10th game in charge of Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League. The Blues have only conceded three goals under the German so far, which would be the joint-fewest through a manager’s first 10 games of a club in the competition (along with Fabio Capello at AC Milan and Jose Mourinho in Real Madrid), if they keep a clean sheet against Malmo FF.
Player to Watch
While Chelsea continue to make a strong impression early in the 2021/22 season, some of their shortcomings are evident. A lot of it boils down to the fact that one of their key players in Mason Mount has not had a lot of rest in the off season, naturally due to his participation at UEFA Euro 2020.
With the English international being such a major creative outlet for Chelsea, it is imperative that he rediscovers his best touch soon, to make the Blues a more formidable side. Such an opportunity could come against Malmo, who have been one of the more porous sides in the Champions League so far. A big game, therefore, beckons Mount and his teammates.
Chelsea 2-0 Malmo
Chelsea have not necessarily been in full flow lately. However, Malmo are a team who have left a lot of gaps in their defensive unit. And if that continues to be the case this Wednesday, then the Blues will be in business, with Mason Mount likely to be running the show for them.
A repeat of the Brentford game cannot be expected. Instead, Chelsea should cruise through this one, with Romelu Lukaku expected to be back among the goals. The Hard Tackle, to that end, predict a 2-0 win for Thomas Tuchel & co. this midweek.