With a small margin for error left in this group stage, one of those special European nights at Stamford Bridge is on order. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton check the stock…
We have reached Matchday Four in the Champions League and this is the European Champions' sixth game in 19 days. Roberto Di Matteo has acknowledged that his team laboured in the closing stages at Swansea and paid the price with a late equaliser in a match they should have won.
While a dramatic and enjoyable victory over our rivals, the Capital One Cup match with Manchester United involved many of Chelsea's key players with the heaviest workload. The Blues manager will have to do without Ashley Cole but may be able to welcome back David Luiz and Juan Mata for this crucial encounter tonight, and John Terry can return to action.
The latter two are among the most influential players at the club again this season. In seven games in all competitions without Terry's leadership the Blues have won four, drawn one and lost two. Stripped of Premier League Player of the Month Mata's creative influence, Chelsea have drawn twice.
Shakhtar have lost three and drawn one of their visits to England, all in the capital.
The Ukrainian double winners held off Spurs but have lost to Fulham in the Europa League and twice in the Champions League to Arsenal, including a 5-1 thrashing in 2010/11. They have won just once - against APOEL - in their last five away trips in this competition.
Tonight's opponents kept up their impressive 100% league record on Saturday by winning 2-0 at home to abject whipping boys Metalurh Zaporizhya. Their season breaks for three months over the winter from early December.
They are runaway leaders domestically, but one should never underestimate the importance of experience and the burden of expectation in the Champions League. Shakhtar have only qualified for the knockout stages once previously, in 2010/11, and foundered in the quarter-finals.
They have also enjoyed an easier workload than Chelsea in recent weeks. They now face four successive away trips on all fronts. The Blues will be aiming to complete a century of European victories since 1958. In the last few seasons, the teams finishing group winners have averaged 12.5 points, the runners-up 10 points.
November can be a cruel month for west Londoners, so we have reason to groan at the sight of the yellow winter ball. Last season November yielded a disappointing two wins in six. In 2010/11 there were three in seven, and three in eight in 2008/9. In 2007/8 and 2009/10, at least, the fireworks were properly lit, and hopefully November 2012 will go off with a bang.
Group E always looked a tough one and it is possible the present top two could remain the same after Matchday Six, with reigning Serie A champs (and current leaders) Juventus missing out.
Although two of their remaining three matches are in Turin, home comforts are not what they were after last weekend. The Old Lady, so impressive at Stamford Bridge, could not quite make it to 50: Juve's 49-game unbeaten run was ended by title rivals Internazionale on Saturday night.
The 1-3 defeat, after Antonio Conte's team had opened the scoring, was their first at the new Juventus Stadium since it opened in September 2011. Chelsea play there in two weeks' time.
Juve's surprising 1-1 result at Nordsjaelland on Matchday Three was their third successive draw in this competition, and they have now failed to win 11 of their last 13 Champions League games. Their final match will be away to Shakhtar while Chelsea host Nordsjaelland.
Oscar's late goal in Donetsk (pictured below) may take on greater or less significance depending on the outcome of tonight's match as a result of the Champions League group stage rules.
In the event of two or more teams tying on the same points at the completion of the group stage, rankings are decided, according to UEFA regulations, by the following complex criteria in descending order:
'a) higher number of points obtained in the group matches played among the teams in question; b) superior goal difference from the group matches played among the teams in question; c) higher number of goals scored in the group matches played among the teams in question; d) higher number of goals scored away from home in the group matches played among the teams in question;
'e) if, after having applied criteria a) to d), two teams still have an equal ranking, criteria a) to d) are reapplied exclusively to the matches between the two teams in question to determine their final rankings.
'If this procedure does not lead to a decision, criteria f) to h) apply; f) superior goal difference from all group matches played; g) higher number of goals scored from all group matches played; h) higher number of coefficient points accumulated by the club in question, as well as its association, over the previous five seasons.'
After defeat in the first leg, only a Chelsea victory tonight would bring those criteria potentially into play. Should Chelsea win 1-0 this evening the Blues would have the edge in the event of a tie with Shakhtar on away goals scored. The Ukrainians scoring more than one goal and avoiding defeat by two clear goals would hand them the advantage.
It was announced this week that Stamford Bridge is to stage the women's Champions League final on 23 May 2013. This will be the first time Chelsea's famous ground has been used as a neutral venue for a UEFA match.
Built in 1905, the stadium has in the past hosted FA Cup finals (1920-22) and semi-finals (1910-78), Charity Shields (1908-70) and England internationals (1909-46). It is arguably the most prestigious non-Chelsea game to be played on the Fulham Road since Arsenal knocked Orient out of the cup there in April 1978. (Orient, lest we forget, had surprisingly beaten the Blues in a previous round.)
Other Group E fixture
Wed 7.45pm - Juventus v FC Nordsjaelland
|Champions League Group E table|
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WE HAVE HISTORY
Chelsea and Shakhtar had never met before the first leg on 23 October. The match finished 2-1 to the hosts in the Donbass Arena. Alex Teixeira capitalised when the ball took two fortunate breaks in the Blues' box after three minutes.
Eden Hazard was caught in possession within 10 minutes of the restart, allowing Fernandinho to score on a rapid break.
Oscar put the seal on an improved showing by the Londoners in the last 15 minutes, coolly converting from eight yards to put a gloss of respectability on the performance.
Shakhtar coach Mircea Lucescu was in charge of Turkish side Beşiktaş in October 2003 when they earned a surprising 2-0 win at Stamford Bridge (pictured below).
That remains Chelsea's last home defeat in the group stage, with 27 games since.
Chelsea's biggest home win in the Champions League
19/10/2011 - Chelsea 5-0 KRC Genk - Group stage
Shakhtar's biggest away win in the Champions League
28/09/2010 - Braga 0-3 Shakhtar Donetsk - Group stage
23/11/2010 - FK Partizan 0-3 Shakhtar Donetsk - Group stage
Chelsea lost at home in the Champions League: 581
Shakhtar lost in any competition: 350
Arsenal won a trophy: 2,727
Liverpool won the league: 8,222
Visit again at lunchtime for part two of the Briefing.