Chelsea v Shakhtar: Four talking points ahead of crucial European tie
Chelsea v Shakhtar: Harry Kemble looks at four key issues ahead of the Blues' crucial Champions League clash
Chelsea’s recent defensive frailties
John Terry is available for selection after completing his four-match domestic suspension for racially abusing Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand. During his absence Chelsea have shipped in 10 goals, including seven against Manchester United in their two recent matches. Questions have been raised again about the capabilities of David Luiz at the back, with Roberto Di Matteo preferring Bransilav Ivanović in the middle against Swansea last weekend. There is no doubt that the Blues need something against Shakhtar Donetsk – after losing 2-1 away at the Donbass Arena – and the manager’s focus will be to tighten up Chelsea’s leaky defence.
Poor winter form
Since Chelsea’s loss against Shakhtar two weeks ago the west London side’s momentum has petered slightly, with the 3-2 home loss to Manchester United followed up by a point against the Swans in the Premier League. Blues’ fans will be all too aware that November has consistently been a month where their side often come unstuck. Luiz Felipe Scolari, Carlo Ancellotti and Andre Villas-Boas have all struggled in the build-up to Christmas after impressive starts to the season. Wins against the Ukrainian champions and Juventus in two weeks’ time will keep the pressure off Di Matteo when he is already faced with persistent questions over the Mark Clattenburg case.
Torres’ goals drying up – again
The enigma of Fernando Torres’ form has been raised once again after the striker’s bright start to the season. The Spaniard has scored six goals in 16 appearances in all competitions but against top opposition in recent weeks has looked innocuous once more. This week, Chelsea youth player Tomas Kalas, currently on loan at Vitesse Arnhem, stoked the fire from Holland by calling for Ivorian forward – and current teammate – Wilfried Bony to replace Torres at Stamford Bridge. Bony scored his 11th and 12th goals of the season in a 2-0 victory against Eredivisie champions Ajax over the weekend. However, Torres will know that he can endear himself once again to Chelsea fans with a goal or two against the classy Shakhtar and former employers Liverpool on Sunday.
Mata will be key
Juan Mata missed the Swansea game with a hamstring strain but will return for Wednesday’s Champions League clash. The playmaker has been in outstanding form for Chelsea this season, even managing to improve on last term’s impressive showing. Mata has had only two weeks away from the game due to his participation in Euro 2012 and the Olympic football tournament over the summer – making his contribution even more remarkable. It is hard to imagine a successful Chelsea team without the dynamic midfielder playing some part and Di Matteo will be relying on Mata, crowned Premier League player of the month for October, to come up trumps once again against Shakhtar Donetsk.