Top spot is up for grabs when Chelsea take to Sevilla’s pitch for the first time in a competitive game today. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton analyse the outing in Andalusia…
The names of Chelsea and Sevilla are already in the Champions League Round of 16 draw, set to take place on 14 December, and the pair are locked on 10 points at the head of Group E. Naturally, each would prefer to top the group and be one of the eight seeded sides, playing the second leg at home next year.
Even a score draw at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan stadium this evening would put Chelsea in pole position ahead of next week’s final group games, as the two teams played out a tactical 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge in October.
Both clubs, so successful in Europe, took it to the brink before securing victory in this competition by identical 2-1 scorelines last time out. Blues substitute Olivier Giroud’s impressive header claimed all three points at Rennes a minute into stoppage time, while Munir El Haddadi’s winner for the Andalusians in Krasnodar came four minutes later.
Frank Lampard’s side are unbeaten in 14 games across all competitions and have managed three successive victories in the Champions League, an eight-year best. A third consecutive away win in this competition would be the club’s best run since five achieved between September 2003 and April 2004.
Chelsea are aiming to complete four consecutive Champions League victories for the first time since April 2012
— KEY STAT
Chelsea team news
Heading into this round of Champions League matches Chelsea are amassing impressive statistics. The Blues are the sixth highest goalscorers with nine, all of which were scored from inside the penalty area (including three spot-kicks). Seventy-seven per cent of the Londoners’ attempts on goal have come from central positions rather than wide areas.
Chelsea are also the team in the competition yet to concede from open play, and our imperious goalkeeper Edou Mendy, responsible for three shut-outs in four European outings, has the competition’s highest save percentage this season: 91.7.
Frank Lampard has a clear bill of health this evening, which is handy when there is minimal recovery time either side of this decisive group fixture, Leeds being the visitors to Stamford Bridge on Saturday night.
The first group match in London against tonight’s hosts was a tight scoreless draw with almost half the chances derived from set-pieces. We may see something similar tonight. Chelsea have changed systems since that encounter, opting for the 4-3-3 also preferred by the Andalusians.
Lampard has confirmed the personnel will change from the starting 11 against Tottenham, though, and it may be closer to the one Los Nervionenses faced back in October. That is because Kai Havertz and Christian Pulisic have returned to fitness, and both may add to the minutes they enjoyed against Spurs from the start this evening, while others need a rest.
Our head coach may feel able to rotate even more freely for Krasnodar’s visit next week, which could be a dead-rubber. He is keen to allow established and up-and-coming squad members some involvement with a testing festive schedule approaching, mentioning youngsters Callum Hudson-Odoi and Billy Gilmour.
However, three big games so far this season – Sevilla, Manchester Utd away and Spurs at the weekend – have ended in stalemate. Lampard will know that when great sides have the chance to beat a rival, they take it.
Sevilla travelled to Huesca on Saturday having won their past four matches across all competitions, and maintained that momentum thanks to a late goal from Hakim Ziyech’s Morocco team-mate Youssef En-Nesyri, who had risen from the bench just a few minutes earlier.
The latest Liga outing brought another selection headache for head coach Julen Lopetegui, who lost seasoned left-back Sergio Escudero for several weeks during the Krasnodar match. Full-backs are vital in Sevilla’s system, and another experienced man for that role, Marcos Acuna, was already sidelined, though influential right-back Jesus Navas returns from a ban.
Lopetegui responded in Russia by switching from a back four to a three, drafting in Karim Rekik, usually a centre-back. He reverted to a 4-3-3 formation at Huesca with Rekik retaining his place on the left, but replaced the Netherlander after an hour with right-back Aleix Vidal, who may have the nod this evening if Acuna remains out.
Tomas Vaclik was goalkeeper for Sevilla on Saturday after Yasine Bounou, who was on duty at Stamford Bridge, tested positive for Covid along with Carlos Fernandez. Wingers Suso and Oussama Idrissi are also sidelined, while the coach has revealed versatile midfielder and penalty taker Lucas Ocampos and striker Luuk de Jong both aggravated existing problems at Huesca and may not make it for this tie.
The Andalusians’ most impressive player during the draw at Stamford Bridge was arguably central midfielder Nemanja Gudelj. The Serbian was dynamic and industrious and often found the right pass through the Blues’ 4-2-3-1 set-up. It is in attack where the Spaniards have been found wanting. Although they have managed 39 shots on target from 73 attempts (the third most in this competition) they have only six goals to show for it, placing them 16th of the 32 teams.
Despite what is at stake tonight the hosts could be forgiven for having one eye on Saturday’s La Liga fixture at home to Real Madrid. They have already achieved their original goal of qualifying for the Champions League knockout rounds, and a weekend win would allow them to leapfrog the visitors.
How to watch the Sevilla-Chelsea match
This match will be covered live by BT Sport in the UK. To find the relevant broadcaster where you are elsewhere, see UEFA’s TV guide.
The Blues-centred match coverage on the 5th Stand app, Facebook Live and YouTube channel begins 70 minutes before kick-off with a look at the teamsheets and exclusive interviews.
Next week’s visitors, Krasnodar, can be assessed in the early kick-off at home to Rennes from 5.55pm.
Man in black
Portuguese referee Artur Dias has previously handled six other English clubs but never Chelsea. Tonight’s VAR team, led by his compatriot Tiago Martins, will for the first time ever communicate remotely with Dias from UEFA’s Operation Room in Nyon, Switzerland. A ‘back-up team’ will be on-site at Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan stadium in case of problems.
Topping the group
The potential outcomes of tonight’s game are quite simple, as both teams involved have already qualified for the next stage and each has 10 points. Whoever wins this evening would top the group. In the event of a draw the order would not be decided until the completion of the final matches, in which the Blues host Krasnodar and Sevilla are at Rennes.
Should the teams at the top be tied on points after that, the first-place side is decided by which has the better head-to-head results. More specifically, and in order: points in head-to-head matches among tied teams, then goal difference, goals scored and finally away goals.
In the event those criteria do not settle the matter (i.e. there’s another 0-0 draw this evening), the order will go down to goal difference across all group matches, and if necessary goals scored, away goals scored, number of wins, then away wins. If somehow all those are identical it comes down to fewest disciplinary points (three points for any red card, one for a yellow card), and ultimately the best UEFA coefficient.
Who could Chelsea face in February?
It remains unclear how beneficial topping the group, facing a runner-up and hosting the second leg, will actually be this season. Last season, Chelsea finished second and were drawn against eventual champions Bayern Munich. However, supporters are only now gradually returning to stadiums across the continent, and the only confirmed group winners so far are Bayern, a team any rival would prefer to delay meeting until the final, Man City and Liverpool.
Group A Bayern Munich (winners)
Group B tbc
Group C Manchester City (winners), Porto
Group D Liverpool (winners)
Group E Chelsea, Sevilla
Group F tbc
Group G Barcelona, Juventus
Group H tbc
Earliest qualifications from the group
Chelsea last qualified for the Champions League knockout phase with two games to spare 10 years ago after a 4-1 thrashing of Spartak Moscow, when Carlo Ancelotti was in charge. The only other occasions were in 2004/05 and 2009/10.
|2012/13||Did not qualify|
|2014/15||Match 5||Round of 16|
|2015/16||Match 6||Round of 16|
|2017/18||Match 5||Round of 16|
|2019/20||Match 6||Round of 16|
The 1,000 matches
The home draw with Tottenham was the 1,000th competitive match of the Roman Abramovich era. The breakdown is as follows: played 1,000, won 608, drawn 216, lost 176, goals for 1,903, against 896, goal difference +1.007. Chelsea have been the most successful club in England over that period, with 16 major trophies won.
Sevilla were one of the six clubs to count Diego Maradona among their luminaries. He wore their no.10 shirt 29 times and scored seven goals in the 1992/93 season followed a troubled end to his time with Napoli. Andalusia was his last European home before he returned to Argentina.
‘Sevilla FC will always be grateful that the greatest player of all time graced the club with his football for a year,’ their official website commented last week. ‘Rest in peace, Diego Armando Maradona.’
Champions League results and fixtures
Group A Lokomotiv Moscow 1-3 RB Salzburg
Group A Atletico Madrid 1-1 Bayern Munich
Group B Shakhtar Donetsk 2-0 Real Madrid
Group B Borussia Monchengladbach 2-3 Inter Milan
Group C Marseille 2-1 Olympiacos
Group C Porto 0-0 Man City
Group D Atalanta 1-1 Midtjylland
Group D Liverpool 1-0 Ajax
Group E Krasnodar v Rennes 5.55pm
Group E Sevilla v Chelsea 8pm
Group F Club Brugge v Zenit St Petersburg 8pm
Group F Dortmund v Lazio 8pm
Group G Ferencvaros v Barcelona 8pm
Group G Juventus v Dynamo Kiev 8pm
Group H Istanbul Basaksehir v RB Leipzig 5.55pm
Group H Man Utd v PSG 8pm