Chelsea travel to Ukraine to face Shakhtar Donetsk in a potentially mouthwatering fixture in the Champions League on Tuesday, but as seems to be the case most of the time these days, all the talk pre-match will not be about what is happening on the pitch.
Or more specifically, the football that is happening on the pitch, because as usual all eyes will be on John Terry, who is expected to make his first start for Chelsea since accepting his four-game domestic ban for racially abusing Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand.
The match takes place exactly a year after the unsavoury incident and it is remarkable that in 365 days since the event the issue is as toxic as ever.
As the players who chose not to wear Kick it Out t-shirts at the weekend proved, the general consensus within football and beyond is that the former England captain got off extremely lightly with his ban – Liverpool’s Luis Suarez got an eight-match suspension for abusing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra in a similar manner – and Chelsea boss Roberto Di Matteo’s patience is visibly wearing thin with the episode.
In this writer’s humble opinion, it is a disgrace that Terry should remain the Chelsea captain: if you or I said something similar in our place of work, we would be sacked without hesitation and rightly so, and no amount of ‘I was only repeating what he said to me, honest, guv’ would save you.
Tuesday provides a great of example of why Chelsea, as a club, have come out of this looking woefully inadequate. All captains in UEFA competition this week must wear an armband that has ‘Unite Against Racism’ written across it, yet only one of them will be serving a ban for racist abuse. It stinks, it really does.
But aside from Terry’s toxicity, Chelsea’s trip to face Shakhtar has the makings of a cracking game. Group E is nicely poised, with both sides on four points after two games, with Juventus on two having drawn both their games.
But with Juve facing a double header against whipping boys Nordsjaelland, Chelsea need a result in Donetsk on Tuesday. They are 9/5 to get it, with the draw at 5/2 and a home win at 27/20, and looking at Shakhtar’s record at the Donbass Arena, those odds are understandable.
Shakhtar haven’t lost a competitive match at home since going down against Porto in the Champions League last November – a run of 15 matches. As has been the trend in Ukrainian football over recent years, particularly at Shakhtar, their team is packed full of Brazilian flair with Willian, who has been a target for both Chelsea and Tottenham, the main attacking fulcrum.
And given the attacking players on display, I fancy goals in this one and the 11/5 that there are over 3.5 is my bet.Punters registering with bwin receive a free £20 bet and placing this on four or more goals to be scored this evening would return £64 if successful.
After all, Donetsk score goals galore at their own ground and have hit 28 in their last ten matches. They aren’t always tight at the back though – they have kept only two clean sheets in the last seven – and free-scoring Chelsea are sure to take advantage of that tendency.
There have been four or more goals in five of Chelsea’s last seven outings and eight of their 13 fixtures in all competitions this season. Both teams have scored in seven of the Blues’ last nine games away from Stamford Bridge in the Champions League and an entertaining game can serve up goals. Take the 11/5 that there are over 3.5 of them.