European football at the Bridge picks up where it left off last season, with the side from the Swiss border country hosted. Club historian Rick Glanvill and clubs statistician Paul Dutton get ready for another group stage start…
Cue Handel, shake the flag, remember Munich and dream of a second hug of ol' big ears for Chelsea, a third for manager Jose Mourinho.
The Blues suffered our first defeat in normal time for 15 games at Everton on Saturday, a run stretching back to the FA Cup semi-final against Man City on 14 April. It was the first in the league since Southampton away on 30 March, but resulted largely from a lack of precision in front of goal from the 22 attempts made.
In many ways the Londoners' performance was admirable: fluid passing and movement allied to pressing high up the pitch and regularly forcing errors from a well-drilled Everton back five. Last season the Blues were fortunate to take all three points away from Goodison Park; that's football.
The fixture between this international break and the opening Champions League game is usually a challenging one, but it has been successfully navigated the last three seasons. Manager and players will have learned a lot about each other which will be for the good going forward.
We have six current international centurions playing for the Blues. They are massively experienced at European level too - only two of the Champions League outfield squad are novices to it. Even of our younger players are veterans of last season's victorious Europa Cup campaign. They beat tonight's opponents Basel home and away to reach the final.
However, as Jose said yesterday, 'There is a big difference between the Champions League and Europa League, and we don't think the Europa League is the best habitat for players who want to be big players.' He intends giving those young 'eggs' free range tonight.
Importantly, that triumph in Amsterdam does position Chelsea as the only English members of an elite group who have won all three major UEFA major club competitions: the Champions League/European Cup (2011/12), the UEFA/Europa Cup (2012/13) and the Cup Winners' Cup (1970/71 and 1997/98). The others are Ajax, Bayern and Juventus.
Mourinho will set aside any bad memories from his most recent Chelsea match in the Champions League: the 1-1 draw to Rosenborg in 2007. He now bids to become the first manager to lift the world's greatest club trophy with a third different club following his successes with Porto (2003/04) and Internazionale (2009/10).
Throughout his last complete group stage at the Bridge, Mourinho's side conceded just one goal, equalling the competition record. He will know the importance of Stamford Bridge as a fortress, with two of the three opponents champions of their country.
Win the three home games and a team is well on the way to the knockout rounds. Two of our group opponents this season, Steaua and Basel, were beaten 3-1 at the Bridge on the route to the Europa League final.
The last five years show that 12 or more points accrued tends to win a Champions League group, while as few as eight have been required to progress as a runner-up.
Chelsea finished third in last season's Group E with 10 last season, largely as a result of squandering a 2-0 lead over Juve in the opening game at the Bridge.
So how have the other Group E teams fared so far this season? Tonight's opponents Basel, presently lying third in defence of their Super League title, have enjoyed three wins on the spin in all competitions, most recently a 1-0 Swiss Cup victory at mid-table fourth tier side Münsingen.
Indifferent early league form included a surprising home defeat by Zurich but they recently registered an impressive win over leaders Young Boys. Basel qualified for the group stage by seeing off Ludogorets of Bulgaria 4-2 away and 2-0 at St Jakob-Park.
Romanian champions Steaua are currently fourth in Liga 1, where confusion reigns resulting from relegations enforced on clubs for financial reasons, then rescinded in court, and unknown quantity Botosani top the table.
Steaua landed in the Champions League for the first time in five years after overcoming Legia Warsaw of Poland 3-3 on away goals.
Our fellow blues from Germany, Schalke, have also found form after a poor start in the Bundesliga, belying their mid-table position by beating Bayer Leverkusen and Mainz - the latter a fortuitous win courtesy of poor opposition finishing and a late strike by summer signing from Milan, Kevin-Prince Boateng.
The Gelsenkirchen side edged out Miroslav Stoch and PAOK 4-3 in the Champions League play-off round.
Other Group E fixture
Wed7.45pm - Schalke v Steaua Bucharest
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- You can listen to the game live wherever you may be only on Chelsea TV.
Last season Chelsea became the first side to beat Basel on their home soil in 13 matches, shattering new coach Murat Yakin's shield of invincibility. It was by no means an easy ride and for long periods the Swiss controlled the flow and tempo of the game. Some personnel have changed but Yakin's side play with the same intensity, fluency and, indeed, system as last season.
Since our 2012/13 meetings both teams have seen personnel changes. Among the new boys for the Londoners are striker Samuel Eto'o, a Champions League beast with three wins and 30 goals in the competition, nine-goal Brazilian winger Willian, and Andre Schürrle, who made his Champions League debut at Stamford Bridge with Bayer Leverkusen two years ago.
Another notable summer transfer saw the return of Argentinean Matias Delgado, who takes up the second striker role vacated by tricky Mohamed Elneny, who troubled the Blues in the past but has a shoulder injury.
Talented goal-scoring central defender Aleksandar Dragovic, who was cautioned in our first Europa League clash in April and missed the second as a result, has joined Dynamo Kiev after three years in Switzerland. Arlind Ajeti, a 19-year-old playing for Switzerland's U21s, had come in to partner Fabian Schär, just two years his senior, in central defence.
The experienced Bulgaria international Ivan Ivanov (pictured below left), signed from Partizan, replaced Ajeti for the game against table-topping Young Boys and will probably figure for his new club tonight. Their Europa Cup left-back Joo Hoo Park and second leg right-back Markus Steinhöfer have moved on.
Fabian Frei in defensive midfield and Marco Streller up front remain the top and bottom of the diamond in Yakin's preferred 4-1-4-1 line-up. Six-foot-six Streller is Bebbi's leading goalscorer with four goals in five games.
Their well-rehearsed system allowed the Swiss to attack with width and pace in April and Chelsea were often outnumbered in key areas of the field, wingers Valentin Stocker and Mohamed Salah regular thorns in the side.
It will require tactical discipline - as well as better finishing than we have seen of late - for the Londoners to open the group stage satisfactorily. The number of chances created on Merseyside will at least have pleased Jose Mourinho and the team played some fine, fluent football for the first hour.
The manager will also want his side to prevent Basel scoring, something no team has achieved in 12 games.
The visitors may have a slight freshness advantage. Whereas Chelsea faced a tough league visit to Goodison Park at the weekend, Basel's Swiss Cup game at lower league Münsingen allowed Yakin to rest several regulars who will be expected to return this evening.
However, Mourinho always has one eye of the next match when he picks a team and several of those who did not start at Everton are likely to be on the pitch when Handel's modified 'Zadok The Priest' rings around the sold-out Bridge out tonight.
Michael Essien, omitted from the squad submitted to UEFA, must miss out but among the starters will be Frank Lampard and Oscar. The young Brazilian clearly revels in this competition, hitting five goals in six games last season, including a brace against Juve. Demba Ba and Marco van Ginkel are the only outfield players who could make their Champions League bow for the Blues this evening. Only eight of their Swiss opponents have ever played at this level before.
WE HAVE HISTORY
We have played the Swiss sides Basel and St Gallen on four occasions previously, winning three times and losing once. This is only our second-ever competitive tie against Basel following last season's home and away victories in the Europa League semi-finals.
Victor Moses settled nerves one step from the final with an early strike at St Jakob-Park, Branislav Ivanovic due most of the credit for the header that went in off the Nigerian, who cartwheeled in celebration.
With David Luiz excelling in central midfield Chelsea were dominant in all areas of the field, with only the final pass lacking. Never the less chances were made for Fernando Torres (who hit a post) and Ramires and Eden Hazard, a lively presence in the no.10 position, blasting a shot over the bar.
Over time Basel began to take control, their giant skipper Marco Streller linking effectively with Valentin Stocker. Having appeared to weather the storm, the Blues were pegged back when Cesar Azpilicueta was reckoned to have fouled Stocker. With three minutes of normal time remaining, Fabian Schar equalised.
A first-leg draw was no disaster but the Blues buzzed into life to claim a winner. The honour fell to David Luiz, steering a brilliant 25-yard free kick past Yann Sommer.
Back at the Bridge the feeling was that Basel's task was made extremely difficult by the Blues' win in Switzerland. But they started with an intensity and aggression the hosts could not quite match. Chelsea fans took to singing the name of Jose Mourinho, freshly linked with a summer return.
And when the Londoners fell behind in first-half stoppage time to a defence-splitting pass from Stocker converted by Mohamed Salah, the visitors were actually in the driving seat.
Chelsea responded powerfully soon after the break with two goals in three minutes for Torres and Moses, both from rebounds. That was the fifth and fourth of the campaign respectively for the two, and Basel's balloon had burst. Just before the hour, with the hosts now dominating, Frank Lampard teed up David Luiz for a memorable 25-yard strike into the top corner.
That made the tie 5-2 on aggregate and the songs about Amsterdam could justifiably ring out as the Blues had reached a second successive European final, to be hosted there.
Our only previous competitive meeting with Basel came in the first leg.
25 April 2013 Europa League semi-final first leg
Schar 87 pen Moses 12
D Luiz 90+4
We did play Basel as part of a six-match Swiss tour at the end of the 1945/46 season. Chelsea won 3-2.
Chelsea's biggest home win in the Champions League
05/12/2012 - Chelsea 6-1 Nordsjaelland - Group stage
Basel's biggest away in the European Cup / Champions League
18/09/1973 - Fram Reykjavik 0-5 Basel - European Cup first round first leg
Chelsea lost at home in the Champions League group stage: 3,640
Basel lost an away game in all competitions: 115
Arsenal won a trophy: 3,042
Liverpool won the league: 8,537
Chelsea start our 11th successive season in the Champions League and 12th overall.
The Blues have topped our group in seven of our last 10 Champions League campaigns. Last season was the first time we failed to progress to the knockout stage.
The Blues have won eight of our 11 Matchday One fixtures, drawing the other three to AC Milan (1999), Rosenborg (2007) and Juventus last year.
The Blues are unbeaten in 29 Champions League group matches (22 wins, seven draws) at Stamford Bridge, since our last defeat in October 2003 against Beşiktaş.
We have lost only two of our last 36 home Champions League matches (including 26 victories) since 2006.
|Chelsea's home record against Swiss teams|
|2000/01||St Gallen||W 1-0||UEFA Cup first round second leg (agg 1-2)|
|2012/13||Basel||W 3-1||Europa League semi-final second leg (agg 5-2)|
Chelsea's last 10 years in Europe
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
2012/13 - Europa League - winners, having transferred from the Champions League group stage
|Last six results|
|Aug 10||Roma (Washington DC)||W 2-1|
|Aug 18||Hull City (h)||W 2-0|
|Aug 21||Aston Villa (h)||W 2-1|
|Aug 26||Manchester United (a)||D 0-0|
|Aug 30||Bayern Munich (Super Cup) lost 4-5 on pens||D 2-2|
|Sep 14||Everton (a)||L 0-1|
European games since
A home win: 0
A home draw: 3
A home defeat: 13
|Chelsea's next three games|