PRE-MATCH BRIEFING: CHELSEA V JUVENTUS - PART ONE
As the European champions welcome the Old Lady to our home, club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton examine the start of our 10th consecutive campaign in this competition…
Do not be late taking your seat this evening: the Champions League trophy will be brought out shortly after the players' preliminary warm-up and paraded around the pitch. Such moments, as any supporter of a London club will tell you, are quite rare.
Then comes the first time we will have heard the bowdlerised but still splendid version of Handel's 'Zadok The Priest', the Champions League theme, since the live version was performed at around 7.40 in the Allianz Arena on 19 May.
While we are at it, Pedro Proença may well enjoy the best reception for a referee, anywhere, ever, when he strolls out with his fellow Portuguese officials. He was of course the man who handled the final and recorded every Blues fans' favourite string of binary code: the 1011110101 that meant Chelsea had edged the penalty shootout to win the trophy.
Then the reminiscing has to stop and the serious business of negotiating the first half of the Champions League begins. Last season, the Blues' knockout stage opponents could not have been tougher: Napoli, Benfica, Barcelona.
London's first success in the competition came after just two English sides had emerged unscathed from the group stage, Arsenal being the other. Chelsea's Group E had looked potentially tricky, but second-seeded Valencia let themselves down away from home and were pipped for the second qualifying slot by pot three Leverkusen.
The defending champions must now finish in the top half of another Group E, this time with pot two Ukrainians Shakhtar and third-seeded Juventus. All three sides are top of their domestic league at present. Denmark's Nordsjælland, who complete the group, lie third in the Superliga.
Everyone will want the Chelsea scalp. The players' heads must be in the right place tonight - not for scalping, but retaining the title.
Our defence of the trophy starts with three difficult fixtures. After the Serie A leaders at the Bridge come consecutive away trips to Scandinavia and eastern Europe.
The foundation to progress from the groups is success at home. Add a few away points and the job is done. In the last few seasons, the teams finishing group winners have averaged 12.5 points, the runners-up 10 points.
Juventus arrive as flag-bearers of a diminished Serie A assault on this competition. For the first time since 1998/99, Italy have only two teams in the Champions League group stage. The other one is AC Milan.
The bianconeri are tactically interesting - a back three like Napoli - and hard to beat. Their only defeat under coach Antonio Conte (pictured below), appointed in May 2011, came in the Coppa Italia final in Rome last May - against the Neapolitans.
Conte has off-field matters to contend with, however. FIFA confirmed on Monday that his 10-month ban has been extended worldwide, and as a result he will not be on the bench for tonight's game.
The suspension, initially applied just in Italy, came after serious allegations arose relating to illegal match betting during his time at Siena.
Conte contests the allegations, and a manager who is in his element responding to the flow of the game and making tactical changes will be missed on the sidelines.
His side won 3-1 at Genoa on Sunday (a day after the Blues' 0-0 draw at QPR) to maintain their 100 per cent league record after three matches.
They arrived hoping to emulate Inter and Lazio who have previously won along the Fulham Road. Chelsea, though, have beaten five of the last eight Italian visitors in the Champions League here, with one game drawn.
Stamford Bridge is a formidable stadium for European opponents, and the Blues won every home game in last season's competition.
Other Group E fixture
Wed 7.45pm - Shakhtar Donetsk v Nordsjælland
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. Chelsea are the only side in Group E who didn't top their league last season.
WE HAVE HISTORY
The only previous competitive meeting between Chelsea and Juventus came in the 2008/09 Round of 16 when a 13th-minute Didier Drogba goal, from a smart Salomon Kalou through pass, gave the Blues a 1-0 first leg victory (pictured below); Guus Hiddink's side came from behind twice in Turin before a 2-2 draw with goals from Michael Essien and Drogba again to win through 3-2 on aggregate.
Italian visitors have helped produce some of the most memorable European nights at Stamford Bridge.
We think of the decisive leg of the Cup-Winners' Cup semi-final in 1998 against Vicenza, in which the Blues capped an exhilarating fightback with a late, rampaging volley from Mark Hughes.
Seventeen months later AC Milan became Chelsea's first ever visitors in the Champions League proper. The Italians were outplayed in a fascinating match, but Gianluca Vialli's men came no closer to scoring than Gianfranco Zola hitting a post and it finished 0-0.
Last season the extraordinary 4-1 victory over Napoli (following a 1-3 away loss) signified a turning point in Chelsea's season, Branislav Ivanovic's stunning extra-time shot ensuring an aggregate victory for newly-appointed boss Roberto Di Matteo.
Chelsea's biggest home win in the Champions League
19/10/2011 - Chelsea 5-0 KRC Genk - Group stage
Juve's biggest away win in the Champions League
01/11/1995 - Rangers 0-4 Juventus - Group stage
Chelsea failed to win at home in the Champions League: 532
Juventus lost an away game in all competitions: 493
Arsenal won a trophy: 2,678
Liverpool won the league: 8,173
Visit again at lunchtime for part two of the Pre-Match Briefing.