The word from Stamford Bridge is that Chelsea will spring a huge shock and actually field an academy graduate or two against Sporting Lisbon in their final Champions League Group G fixture, but that shouldn’t put anyone off backing the Blues at generous 13/18 odds with bwin.com.
Defensive- midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek seems certain to play a part when Os Leoes visit after accompanying his boss to a Chelsea pre-match press conference, where the Portuguese made a number of enigmatic comments regarding the club’s youth system.
Few football watchers will be expecting too much, too soon from Loftus-Cheek considering Chelsea’s woeful record of bringing players through the ranks; captain John Terry was the last academy graduate to become a first-team regular over a decade ago.
Blues backers needn’t fear though, with Petr Cech, Branislav Ivanovic, Gary Cahill and Andre Schurrle among the senior pros expected to start against Sporting.
Highly-rated young centre-half Kurt Zouma could also feature, having been involved in four wins and two draws in six appearances since arriving from Saint Etienne over the summer, while last term’s La Liga-winning left-back Filipe Luis will be desperate to impress if given a rare chance ahead of Cesar Azpilicueta.
However, what really makes this bet worth being on is the fact that Sporting will be without on-loan Manchester United winger Nani, scorer of four Champions League goals this term, as well as first-choice full-backs Cedric Soares and Jefferson Nascimento.
With oft-rampant striker Diego Costa also namechecked by the boss as likely to start and Loic Remy raring to go on the bench, don’t expect Marco Silva’s under-strength outfit to become only the second team this season to avoid defeat at Chelsea.
Costa is 3/1 favourite to bag the first goal of the match at Stamford Bridge, with Zouma, who already opened his Stamford Bridge account in the Capital One Cup win over Bolton, at 10/1 to notch at any time.