Being the European Cup holders means that in some official, unofficial or self bestowed capacities Chelsea are indeed the continents number one team.
The elusive honour missing from the Stamford Bridge trophy cabinet was finally captured in Munich last May but aside from ending a decade long obsession costing billions of rubles it is also the reason the Blues will tonight embark on a tenth successive season in the Champions League.
Didier Drogba’s decisive spot kick at the Allianz Arena masked over the domestic deficiency of a side finishing in sixth place and was pivotal in the summer recruitment of Eden Hazard and Oscar. The timing couldn’t have been any better.
Year on year Chelsea have begun continental campaigns trying to suss out where it went wrong but this time around they have the unenviable task of trying to replicate where it went right – something that nobody has done in the modern era of Europe’s most prestigious club competition.
Even though the current European champions are also currently sitting pretty aloft the fledgling Premier League there are few neutral observers who at this juncture would put Chelsea into the same class category as Barcelona, Real Madrid or Manchester City but on this stage, as they demonstrated so well last year, they invariably flourish in the face of adversity and no club can match Chelsea’s record of two finals, four semi’s and two quarters over the past nine outings.
However, we are led to believe that this is yet another ‘new’ Chelsea and with staples of past adventures such as Drogba, Michael Essien, Florent Malouda and Salomon Kalou all gone, how will Roberto Di Matteo go about the continuation of old achievements?
The pre-cursor for the group stages against Atletico Madrid in the Uefa Super Cup was hardly a glowing endorsement of the new fleet footed blues line-up as they were torn to shreds by Radamel Falcao and co in a sobering experience in Monte Carlo. Rarely has a Chelsea team been ripped from limb to limb and the defensive solidarity they have based many past exploits upon looked worryingly compromised.
Group E also containing Shakhtar Donestsk, Nordsjaelland and tonights opponents Juventus shouldn’t put a premature end to their defence but even still bwin have the reigning champions as massive 14/1 outsiders to repeat last years capture.
The visit of Serie A title winners Juve will give another stern examination of Chelsea’s credentials and will also undoubtedly ask more questions left exposed by Atletico’s exertions.
Even despite being shorn of Coach Antonio Conte the Old Lady have lost just one of their last fifty competitive fixtures meaning Chelsea are only slight 13/10 favourites for an opening night victory with bwins 3Way football betting market with the Italians at 11/5 and the draw 21/10.
Thus far Di Matteo has tinkered with a 4-2-3-1 formation to differing effect and pivotal to how tonight’s encounter will go will be how the hosts countenance the influence of Juve’s midfield architect Andrea Pirlo.
The Turin outfit have been on a three year sabbatical from the Champions League but that does not necessarily limit their potency given their current quality and 2/5 for them to score reflects their offensive capabilities and Chelsea’s weakness at the back.
Certainly I can see both sides finding the net at 4/5 but I don’t see the European champions fulfilling that mantle and claiming the win. Juventus have won their last eight games on the road scoring 21 times and out of the two I would favour the Italians as most likely victors but given Chelsea’s nine wins from eleven in this competition on their patch I’m going for the fence sitting 21/10 draw.
As I said I can see either side notching but given first day nerves and a point not being bad for either it also being a somewhat cagey affair which makes the 1-1 at 19/4 particularly appealing.
New customers registering with bwin are entitled to a free £20 bet and putting that on the 1-1 draw could pull you in £115.
Otherwise if you’re looking to avoid the result then get over 2.5 goals in the game on your accumulator at 21/20 or over 1.5 goals in the second half at 27/20.
As Chelsea proved last season winning the Champions League is a marathon not a sprint and a point hear in the long haul could well end up being a valuable one.
Recommended bet: Draw @ 21/10
Outside punt: 1-1 @ 19/4