Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Chelsea vs Roma Match Preview (18/10/17): Patched Up Blues Ready for the Italian Job

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It was one of those games of football where it is hard to explain exactly how it was lost, but Chelsea’s 1-2 reverse at the hands of previously winless Crystal Palace was another example of the Blues’ regression so far this term.

The Eagles’ opening goal, a bizarre own goal that deflected in off Cesar Azpilicueta, was unlucky to say the very least, but Wilfried Zaha’s winner could have been prevented with some smarter defending.

That’s two Premier League defeats on the bounce now, which leaves us some nine points behind leaders Manchester City – a side not making rudimentary errors, unlike the Blues.

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It’s a relief then to have a short break from domestic duty in midweek as we welcome Roma to Stamford Bridge for the latest instalment of the Champions League. Top of Group C with two wins in as any matches, this competition was the scene for our best performance of the season at Atletico Madrid, and let’s hope those memories inspire the lads back to winning ways on Wednesday.

The cause should be aided by the return of Alvaro Morata, who was photographed on Monday training alongside his teammates after seemingly shaking off the thigh injury that ruled him out of the trip to Selhurst Park.

In a fortnight of bad news, we have to take every silver lining we can get.

Chelsea Team News

As first feared, Victor Moses tweaked his hamstring against the Eagles and will be out for the next couple of weeks.

There has been no major advancement in N’Golo Kante’s diagnosis, with Conte suggesting the midfield dynamo could be out for ‘three, maybe four weeks’.

At least Morata’s return offers an attacking outlet so sorely lacking on Saturday, and his link-up play with Eden Hazard will be vital as the Blues seek a third straight victory in the Champions League.

A rather tepid display from Willian may just have cost him his place in the starting eleven, with Pedro impressing when he came on as a 57th minute substitute. The Spaniard may just get the nod on Wednesday.

Chelsea vs Roma Head to Head

Chelsea and Roma have only ever met four times – and those were both double-header fixtures in continental competition.

You have to go back to 1965 for the first set: Chelsea winning 4-1 at home in the Fairs Cup before a 0-0 stalemate ensued in the return leg in Italy.

For those of a more contemporary persuasion, the pair last met in 2008. Chelsea won 1-0 at the Bridge before Roma gained revenge with a 3-1 victory on home soil.

How the Match Will Be Won

The concern for Chelsea fans, quite simply, is the form that Roma find themselves in heading into this encounter.

After a sluggish start they had won five Serie A matches in a row prior to the weekend, where they were beaten 0-1 by runaway leaders Napoli. The Italians have got off to a decent start in the Champions League too, drawing 0-0 with Atletico before triumphing 2-1 over Qarabag.

That latter scoreline doesn’t really tell the whole tale, either. Qarabag scored with their only shot on target, while Roma plundered nine shots of their own at their hosts’ goal and won nine corners into the bargain. It was a truly one-sided affair, as you might expect.

It’s always interesting to look at a team’s away form to see if they change their philosophy when playing at home or on their travels. Judging by Roma’s away form in Serie A – W10 D0 L0 GF31 GA6 – the answer is a resounding no.

But their record on the road in the Champions League is not nearly as impressive: W1 D4 L5 tells its own tale. They have shipped two or more goals in 6/10, and scored one or fewer themselves in 7/10. Those figures suggest opportunity knocks for the Blues on Wednesday.

It was a tough summer for Roma as a number of their key players left: we know all about Antonio Rudiger, of course, plus they lost Mo Salah to Liverpool and Leandro Paredes to Zenit St Petersburg.

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When you look at their starting eleven it is hard not to get excited about Chelsea’s chances. Roma actually wanted to sell defender Juan Jesus in the summer but had to keep him following the sale of Rudiger, while Aleksandr Kolarov was deemed not good enough for Premier League football by Manchester City – as was frontman Edin Dzeko. Centre half Federico Fazio was bombed out of Spurs too, so there’s a pattern emerging of players at Roma who are, in essence, English top flight cast offs.

They do boast a combative midfield trio of Daniele De Rossi, Radja Nainggolan and Kevin Strootman, so it may well be the midfield battleground where this match is won or lost. If the Blues can gain the upper hand here, they can certainly find goals against a pretty average Roma backline.

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