Tue 02 Oct 2012 19:45 (Attendance: 42,000)
From north London to northern Europe as the Blues look to carry good domestic league form into our defence of the cup with the big ears. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton hope for a wonderful win in Copenhagen…
The age-old playground discussion - who would win a fight between a lion and a tiger? - may be answered tonight. FC Nordsjaelland - the Wild Tigers - might not realistically expect to battle their way out of a tough Group E, but having dropped two home points at home to Juventus, the lion of Chelsea will be especially rampant in the quest for a win tonight.
More usually just called FCN, the Danes lie third in the Superliga after 11 matches, having seen off struggling Esbjerg 3-0 at home on Friday evening. Their top scorer, Dutch attacker Joshua John (pictured below), on loan from FC Twente, netted his eighth time this season in that game.
On their Champions League debut at Shakhtar's Donbass Arena, Kasper Hjuland's side enjoyed possession without scoring, were picked off 0-2 by counter-attacks and were eventually shown five yellow cards as fatigue set in.
Donetsk are dangerous but far from invincible at home, while Juve looked a very good side in our opening 2-2 draw. To win the group, the usual tariff would be 12 points or over, meaning that should the Blues win both remaining home matches, at least one away victory may be necessary, with this evening's the most obvious target.
The Blues won none of the three away games in last season's group stage, but arrive in great form, having defeated local rivals Arsenal 2-1 on their home soil on Saturday.
That was Chelsea's first derby win in the league outside of Stamford Bridge since September 2010, when we won at Upton Park. The club's 92nd victory in Premier League capital clashes puts us one behind the Gunners' 93.
The Blues have now won more times - three - in the league at Emirates Stadium than any club except Arsenal themselves.
The campaign is still young, but Chelsea's best start to a season since the 2009/10 Double has also opened the largest gap over Arsenal at the same stage since then 2005/06. The Blues lead the Premier League by three points.
In the spirit of the Ryder Cup we ought to celebrate the Iberian contribution to our progress so far. Five of the last six goals have come from a Spaniard, including Fernando Torres's fifth of the season.
Tonight's hosts were surprise winners of their league last season. Some critics suggest the triumph - the first in their history - came about more through a more talented Copenhagen side's surprising failures than any pre-eminence on Nordsjaelland's part.
However, no one doubts they deserved the title for remaining impressively consistent and effective throughout the campaign, playing much good football on the way to winning the Superliga by two points. (The Danish league runs from July to May with a break from December to March.)
Unlike many Champions League novice clubs the Farum side are not bankrolled to any great degree and are more renowned for small budgets, youth development and judicious purchases.
It has meant picking up young discards from other clubs or abroad and, in the latest cases this summer of top stars Anders Bjelland and Tobias Mikkelsen, cashing in the value the club has added.
The present club rose from the ashes of Farum Boldklub, founded as recently as 1991. The renaming in 2003 helped rehabilitate the club following a financial scandal that engulfed and imprisoned its then chairman, the high-profile mayor of Farum, Peter Brixtofte. Fresh owners applied a new broom and the name Nordsjaelland - 'North Zealand', a region of Denmark - was part of the rebranding.
Despite a huge surge in support for the Blues in Denmark over the last 20 years tonight's attendance may be smaller than the 25-28,000 of previous visits.
This is partly because our opponents have a smaller fan base than Copenhagen, but also because Nordsjaelland have sold home Champions League tickets in a batch rather than as individual nights. Locals interested in catching Chelsea may not fancy forking out for all three matches.
This is their first home game in the Champions League and all three group matches on Danish soil have been switched to the Parken Stadion, the national stadium and FC Copenhagen's home turf, as their own Farum Park 20 km away holds fewer than 10,000, even before UEFA's matchday requirements are met.
The other bonus - to the Chelsea team at least - is that Farum Park has the Danish league's only artificial surface, whereas Parken is the familiar grass.
Other Group E fixture
Tue 7.45pm - Juventus v Shakhtar Donetsk
|Champions League Group E table|
This season's Champions League features 17 domestic league champions from last season, eight runners-up and five third-placed finishers. Malaga is the only club in the group stage to have finished in fourth place in their domestic league. Just Chelsea from Group E didn't top their league last season.
Many thanks to Kenneth Quisgaard for his help in writing this preview.
Click on tabs above for more.
Continuing the Champions League build-up they began earlier today, club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton add more tactics and statistics...
The kings of Europe aim to make it four wins in four competitive visits to the seat of Europe's oldest monarchy.
Tactically there are several similarities between the two sides. Both use a 4-2-3-1 system, cherish possession and press their opponent high up the pitch.
Coach Kasper Hjulmand was assistant to Morten Wieghorst (once of Celtic, now with Denmark's U21s) as FCN won the Danish Cup two season running, 2010 and 2011, before going one better and scooping the Superliga last May.
He likes to play an open, attacking style, but is a rookie at this level - as was his Chelsea counterpart Roberto Di Matteo, until March. We know how that story ended.
There is a greater gulf in experience at this level on the field. None of FCN's squad had played in the Champions League before Matchday 1 in Ukraine.
They also lost two of their best players in the summer: central defender Anders Bjelland was sold to FC Twente and attacking midfielder Tobias Mikkelsen is now playing for newly promoted German Bundesliga side Greuther Furth.
Never the less, the hosts have several current or former internationals, including the captain and midfield dynamo Nikolai Stokholm, current Danish centre-back Jores Okore, former international teammate and Malaga left-back Patrick Mtiliga, and three offensive players Mikkel Beckmann, Kasper Lorentzen and Morten Nordstrand, all with a number of caps under their belts. Michael Parkhurst, who can play anywhere across the back four, has played 14 times for the USA since 2007.
Although not a regular in the starting XI, another famous name in the squad is that of under-21 creative midfielder Andreas Laudrup (pictured below) - son of Swansea manager Laudrup, and nephew of former Chelsea winger Brian Laudrup.
FCN rarely adapt to opponents' tactics, playing a possession-based attacking game, some distance from the park-the-bus approach fans might expect from Champions League underdogs.
By turning play over in FCN's half, the young Brazilian has the chance to exploit gaps in their new centre-back partnership or behind their gallivanting full-backs; he scored twice against Juventus, of course. However, he has been booked in his two Premier League starts and needs to be careful about fouls conceded.
Oscar has been part of a pacy, quick-witted attacking midfield three behind Fernando Torres, alongside Juan Mata, Eden Hazard or Victor Moses. FCN may find their fluidity and pace difficult to handle.
We saw Ramires on the left of centre midfield against Wolves, a position he retained at Emirates, with Mikel back as opposed to the equally excellent Oriol Romeu. Frank Lampard played no part against Arsenal and may be recalled.
A key threat from the hosts is Joshua John, a fast, wide left forward on loan from FC Twente. Whether it is Branislav Ivanovic or César Azpilicueta at right back they will be aware that John likes to cut inside onto his right-foot or sneak in behind to attack the goal. He is his side's top scorer.
Lone striker Beckmann has a fine shot and usually handles FCN's set plays. On Saturday, Juan Mata scored Chelsea's first direct free kick in the league since the 2010/11 season.
Daniel Sturridge's hamstring makes him the only player injured and unavailable. David Luiz has overcome the blow the thigh that ended his our at Arsenal prematurely. The Danes have no injuries.
Click on tabs above for more briefing.
WE HAVE HISTORY
Chelsea and Nordsjaelland have never met before, although the Blues played FC Copenhagen on the same national stadium, Parken, in 1998 and 2011.
Both matches ended in victory for the Londoners, the first courtesy a parting gift from Brian Laudrup (pictured below) ahead of joining our opponents. The Dane put his future employers out of the Cup-Winners' Cup (2-1 on aggregate) with a header after Pierluigi Casiraghi's shot from a Graeme Le Saux cross had cannoned off the bar.
Two seasons ago it was Nicolas Anelka who inflicted the damage. His first goal, just past an opening quarter of an hour of patient Blues possession, came courtesy of another Chelsea Dane - winger Jesper Gronkjær inadvertently passing to the Frenchman, who raced towards goal and finished with aplomb.
Nine minutes into the second half Frank Lampard's deft reverse pass found Anelka, and the forward netted with a low drive, completing the scoring at 2-0.
The Blues's first ever competitive European fixture, the opening game of the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, took place at Idraetsparken, Copenhagen, 54 years and two days ago on 30 September 1958, with Frem (or more accurately Frem/Staevnet) the opposition.
The nature of this competition - open to cities that had held an international trade fair - was such that one newspaper reported the game as Copenhagen versus London, with the club names in brackets.
Oddly, while Chelsea fielded a regular side, the amateur hosts were reinforced by three international 'guests', generating as much comment in Denmark as it did England. 'The players who were left out of our team were quite as good as the internationals who were chosen to replace them,' said one local journalist.
Frem's and Denmark's former coach, onetime Huddersfield man Reg Mountford, was said to have briefed the Danes with 'secret information' on how to counter Jimmy Greaves and co. Either the dossier's goods were lost in translation or Mountford was wide of the mark, for the Blues strolled to victory.
Mike Harrison scored inside the first half-hour, Tony Nicholas having miscued after being put clear by Greaves. Although the Danes equalised two minutes later through Harald Gronemann's long-range effort, it was all Chelsea from thereon.
Early in the second half Greaves re-established the lead by darting onto a cross from the right and smacking in his 17th (!) of the season. Frem offered little threat, and Chelsea were content to retain possession until the final moments, when talismanic Greaves against set up a goal, this time Nicholas making no mistake.
The 3-1 margin from the first leg became 7-2 on aggregate after the return at Stamford Bridge.
Looking even further back, Chelsea's first ever overseas football match was in Copenhagen after our first season, 1905/06. On 13 May we beat Boldklubben af 1893 (present FCN coach Kasper Hjulmand's former club) 6-2, followed by a 2-1 loss the next day in the same city to Southampton, and went on to win all 10 matches on a tour of Denmark, Bohemia (now the Czech Republic), Hungary and Austria.
This was the tour on which new signing 'Gatling Gun' George Hilsdon established his goalscoring reputation. The Danes, though, were disappointed that the legendary Willie Foulke did not form part of the Pensioners' travelling party (and quite a substantial part he would have formed, too).
The famously larger-than-life goalkeeper had already quit Stamford Bridge a few weeks earlier after just one season, and the hosts demanded a refund on the appearance money promised. It is not clear whether Chelsea acceded.
Chelsea's biggest away win in the Champions League
20/10/1999 - Galatasaray 0-5 Chelsea - First group stage
Nordsjaelland's biggest home win in Europe
29/07/2008 - Nordsjaelland 5-0 FC TVMK Tallinn - UEFA Cup 1st qual rd
Visit again at lunchtime for more briefing...
The Blues have topped our group in seven of our last nine Champions League campaigns. We have never failed to progress to the knockout stage.
Chelsea have won seven and lost five of our last 19 away games in the Champions League. Last term we failed to win any of our away group matches having taken the lead in all three. We achieved draws at Valencia and Genk and fell to a last minute winner at Bayer Leverkusen.
|Chelsea's away record against Danish teams|
|1958/59||BK Frem||W 3-1||Fairs Cup 1st round 1st leg (won 7-2 on agg)|
|1998/99||FC Copenhagen||W 1-0||Cup Winners Cup 2nd round 2nd leg (won 2-1 on agg)|
|2010/11||FC Copenhagen||W 2-0||Champions League round of 16 1st leg (won 2-0 on agg)|
Chelsea's last ten years in Europe
2002/03 - UEFA Cup - first round
2003/04 - Champions League - semi-final
2004/05 - Champions League - semi-final
2005/06 - Champions League - round of 16
2006/07 - Champions League - semi-final
2007/08 - Champions League - runners-up
2008/09 - Champions League - semi-final
2009/10 - Champions League - round of 16
2010/11 - Champions League - quarter-final
2011/12 - Champions League - winners
|Last six results|
|Aug 31||Atlético Madrid (Uefa Super Cup)||L 1-4|
|Sep 15||QPR (a)||D 0-0|
|Sep 19||Juventus (Champions League h)||D 2-2|
|Sep 22||Stoke (h)||W 1-0|
|Sep 25||Wolves (League Cup h)||W 6-0|
|Sep 29||Arsenal (a)||W 2-1|
Scorers Torres 5, Cahill 3, Bertrand 2, Ivanovic 2, Lampard 2 (2 pens), Mata 2, Oscar 2, Cole 1, Hazard 1 (pen), Moses 1, Romeu 1 (pen). Total 22.
|Chelsea's next three games|
|Sat 6 Oct||Norwich City home||3.00pm|
|Sat 20 Oct||Tottenham Hotspur away||12.45pm|
|Tue 23 Oct||Shakhtar Donetsk (CL) away||7.45pm|
John Terry needs one goal to reach 50 in all competitions for the Blues.
If selected, Frank Lampard will make his 99th appearance in Europe for the Blues.
Founded as Farem BK on 1 January 1991 from the merger of two football clubs, Farum Idraets Klub and Stavnsholt Boldklub. In March 2003 Farem BK was bought by AKB Holding and was re-branded as FC Nordsjaelland.
1 league title in 2012
2 Danish Cups in 2010 and 2011
By winning on the final day of last season FC Nordsjaelland won their first Danish Superliga title beating runners-up FC Copenhagen by two points.
FC Nordsjaelland have played four previous campaigns in Europe in the UEFA Cup and Europa League but only managed to get through to the first round proper twice.
Last season they were knocked out of the Europa League by Sporting Lisbon in the play-offs.
Their complete record in Europe is played 15, won six, drawn one, lost eight.
It is the Danish champions' first competitive meeting against English opposition.
They are unbeaten in three games since their defeat to Shakhtar on Matchday One.
Last ten league seasons
|Last six results|
|Sep 2||Brøndby IF (h)||D 0-0|
|Sep 15||FC Copenhagen (a)||L 1-2|
|Sep 19||Shakhtar Donetsk (Champions League a)||L 0-2|
|Sep 22||Randers (h)||D 1-1|
|Sep 25||Svebølle (Cup a)||W 3-1|
|Sep 28||Esbjerg fB (h)||W 3-0|
Danish Superliga scorers John 8, Lorentzen 3, Parkhurst 3, Stokholm 3, Christensen 2, Beckmann 1, Gytkjaer 1, Laudrup 1, Mtiliga 1. Total 23.
Danish Superliga top five
THE MAN IN THE MIDDLE
Referee Marijo Strahonja, his two assistant referees and two additional assistant referees, all hail from Croatia. This is only his second match in the Champions League proper.
There are no suspensions.
Champions League bookings list
Players receive a one-match suspension for collecting three and five yellow cards.
FC Nordsjaelland (5): Christensen 1, Hansen 1, John 1, Lorentzen 1, Mtiliga 1.
Chelsea (1): Ramires.
In the end, it was a comfortable three points, but the 4-0 scoreline was slightly harsh on the home side.
After the break the home side began to threaten, and Petr Cech was called into action on a couple of occasions, with one save in particular, when he tipped a Joshua John strike on to the post, maintaining our lead.
A minute later we were 2-0 up when David Luiz scored a sublime free-kick, lifting his strike over the wall and into the back of the net with the keeper rooted firmly to the spot.
If the second goal had knocked the stuffing out of the home side, the third, two minutes later, put the game to bed, Mata scoring his second of the night, pouncing on a loose ball to fire home as the Danes struggled to clear their lines.
Our first win of the Champions League campaign, and a first away win in the group stages since 2010, sees us head into a double header against Shakhtar Donetsk in good heart.
Roberto Di Matteo made three changes to the side which won 2-1 at Arsenal on Saturday. With John Terry starting on the bench, Gary Cahill came in to partner David Luiz in the centre of defence, while Lampard, who had failed to start our three previous matches, skippered the side after coming in for John Mikel Obi. The only other change saw Victor Moses make his European debut, coming in to play wide on the left at the expense of Eden Hazard who started on the bench.
The Blues were gifted a chance inside the opening couple of minutes when a careless throw-in fell straight into the path of Oscar.
The Brazilian linked up well with both Fernando Torres and Moses before a teasing delivery had just a little too much pace on it for the Spaniard.
Chelsea came into the game as big favourites against the Champions League novices, and a minute later we were almost in front, Moses rising highest to meet an Oscar cross, but under pressure the young attacker saw his effort crash against the post.
It was an extremely positive start as we looked to exert a stranglehold on the game in the opening stages.
Soon after and another defensive lapse from the home side saw Torres through on goal. He could, and probably should, have shot as soon as he picked the ball up on the edge of the Nordsjaelland penalty area, but as he attempted to evade Jores Okore, the defender made the challenge and the chance went begging.
Joshua John had the first attempt on goal for Kasper Hjulmand's men, showing a lovely piece of skill to pop the ball through the legs of Ramires before firing wide from distance.
An early Chelsea goal would undoubtedly have tested the resolve of the hosts, but an inability to take our chances in the first five minutes appeared to galvanise Nordsjaelland and it required a well-timed block from Ashley Cole to deny Mikkel Beckmann as they began to offer more of an attacking threat.
At the other end, meanwhile, Torres went close after producing a clever trick to go beyond Ivan Runje, with Jesper Hansen using his feet to block the striker's attempt.
The Blues took the lead just after the half-hour mark, profiting from another defensive mistake.
Torres pounced on a loose ball, driving at the defence before rolling it back into the path of the supporting Lampard. The stand-in captain showed tremendous vision to pick out Mata, allowing the Spaniard to calmly slot us into the lead, his third goal in successive games.
A minute before the break we should have doubled our advantage, Oscar splitting the Danes with a simple ball, but Torres, who looked destined to score, saw his strike palmed away by Hansen.
There were no changes to personnel at the break, and after Torres was again thwarted by Hansen a minute after the restart, John almost levelled things up for Nordsjaelland, cutting in from wide on the left and firing inches past Cech's right-hand upright.
Moses, in particular, was seeing more of the ball during the second spell; a fizzing cross after being released by a wonderful Lampard volley was cleared away, before the 21-year-old had a goal ruled out for offside.
With only one goal separating the two sides, Nordsjaelland were still very much in the game, and Nikolai Stokholm stung the palms of Cech from just outside the box as they looked to restore parity.
Moments later Beckmann was left unmarked on the edge of the penalty area, and but for his failure to connect with the ball as it dropped to him in a dangerous position, we could have been made to pay for some slack defending.
Eighteen minutes into the second half Di Matteo made his first substitution of the night, replacing Moses, who had worked tirelessly, with Hazard in what was a straight swap.
The warning signs were beginning to mount, and like at Arsenal at the weekend, we had Cech to thank for keeping us in front.
John, who had been the home side's biggest threat throughout, was allowed to roam, and as his curling effort looked set to nestle in the far top corner, the Blues 'keeper somehow managed to get a fingertip on it and divert it on to the post.
The game, however, was put out of the Danish side's reach shortly after when we doubled our advantage in some style.
Torres was awarded a free-kick 25 yards from goal after being tugged back, and it was David Luiz who stepped up, bending a stunning strike over the wall and into the back of the net via the aid of a post.
With the travelling Chelsea hordes still revelling in the Brazilian's goal, the three points were secured two minutes later as Mata reacted quickest to a loose ball in the Nordsjaelland penalty area to score his second of the night.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, David Luiz, Cole; Ramires, Lampard (c); Mata (Mikel 82), Oscar, Moses (Hazard 64); Torres.
Unused substitutes: Turnbull, Azpilicueta, Terry, Bertrand, Romeu.
Scorers Mata 33, 81, David Luiz 79, Ramires 88
FC Nordsjaelland (4-2-3-1): Hansen; Parkhurst, Okore, Runje, Mtiliga; Stokholm (c), Adu; Lorentzen (Laudrup 84), Nordstrand (Ticinovic 64), John; Beckmann (Christensen 74).
Unused substitutes: Villadsen, Christiansen, Gundelach, Petry.
Booked Runje 77
Referee Marijo Strahonja (Croatia)