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PRE-MATCH BRIEFING: FC NORDSJAELLAND V CHELSEA

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…


TALKING POINTS
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.

KEY STAT
Chelsea have won all three of our previous competitive visits to Denmark, all in Copenhagen.


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.

John


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
P W D L F A Pts
Shakhtar Donetsk 1 1 0 0 2 0 3
Juventus 1 0 1 0 2 2 1
Chelsea 1 0 1 0 2 2 1
FC Nordsjaelland 1 0 0 1 0 2 0


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.

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PRE-MATCH BRIEFING: FC NORDSJAELLAND V CHELSEA

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.

Laudrup


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


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