Reigning European champions Chelsea play host to Danish side Nordsjaelland on Wednesday evening, with Rafael Benitez's side on the brink of becoming the first title holders to exit the tournament in the group stages. The Blues must beat the Danes at Stamford Bridge and hope Ukrainian Premier League side Shakhtar Donetsk can beat Serie A champions Juventus at home.
At kick-off, the Premier League giants are third in Group E, with seven points from five games. Juventus are second with nine points and Shakhtar, who have already qualified for the knock-out stages, lead with 10 points. Nordsjaelland are fourth with one point from five games and have been eliminated from all European competition for the season.
The reverse fixture, in Denmark, ended in a resounding win for the visitors, with Spanish playmaker Juan Mata scoring a brace.
Where to Watch Live
Kick-off is set for 7.45 pm GMT and live coverage is on Sky Sports 2 and Sky Sports HD 2.
Chelsea come into this game third in the Premier League, with 26 points from 15 games. That statistic, however, is misleading. The Blues, to begin with, are seven points behind reigning English champions Manchester City and 10 behind Manchester United. Rafael Benitez has had three games in charge of the club since Roberto Di Matteo's sacking and the Spaniard's job is already in danger, after two goalless draws and a defeat to West Ham United. The ex-Liverpool manager's team have not won a game since they beat United in a Capital One Cup game, at home, in the last week of October and have not won a league game since the 2-4 win at White Hart Lane earlier that month.
There really isn't much more to be said about Chelsea, except rumours suggest club owner Roman Abramovich has finally lost patience with Fernando Torres. Brazilian forward Taison and German international Andre Schurrle have been lined up as potential replacements, with Russian club Anzhi Makhachkala rumoured to be interested in the £50m Spaniard.
The good news is that regardless of their poor present form, this match provides Chelsea (and Benitez) an opportunity to set up a strong platform for the future. Nordsjaelland are not, with all due respect, a side Chelsea should fear and the English club will feel that if they can win by four goals in Denmark, a much more emphatic scoreline is on the cards at home.
Nordsjaelland, on the other hand, have nothing but pride to play for; the Danes are enjoying a good domestic season, with 35 points from 19 games keeping AaB in third. It is therefore more than likely Kasper Hjulmand's side will be back in European competition before long.
As things stand, Shakhtar progress to the knock-out stages as group leaders with Juventus in second. A win for the Ukrainians in the last round of games and three points for Chelsea will mean the Blues join them in the knock-out stages, at the expense of the Italians, who will drop into the Europa League.
Anything other than a defeat in Donetsk, for Antonio Conte's side, will make qualification a near impossible task for Chelsea. A draw, for example, will leave Juventus on 10 points. Chelsea, assuming they win, will also have 10 points but because they trail on head-to-head against the Italians, the holders will be eliminated.
Should Juventus win in Ukraine, then they and their hosts will progress, regardless of the result at the Bridge.
- Last Five (all competitions, most recent first): DWLWL
- Last Match: West Ham United 3 - 1 Chelsea
- Last Five (all competitions, most recent first): W L L W D
- Last Match: Nordsjaelland 3 - 0 Brondby
The Blues are still without the experienced England duo of John Terry and Frank Lampard. The pair should be back for the weekend league match against Sunderland though. Benitez will hope their absence will not leave the team as short of leadership as it did in the last European fixture - the defeat at Juventus.
Young striker Daniel Sturridge is still suffering from a hamstring strain but should be available to start from the bench. Torres is expected to lead the line for Chelsea, in spite of the Spaniard's indifferent form and pressure from all quarters. Brazilian centre back David Luiz is back in the squad after missing the defeat to West Ham and will start in central defence, alongside Branislav Ivanovic.
Probable Line-Up: Cech; Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Luiz, Cole; Mikel, Ramires; Mata, Oscar, Hazard; Torres
The visitors will be without Jores Okore, who has a thigh injury. The good news is Hjulmand has a full side to choose from.
Probable Line-Up: Hansen; Parkhust, Gundelach, Runje, Mtiliga; Adu, Stockholm; Lorentzen, Christensen, John; Nordstrand
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