It’s matchday three for the reigning European champions and that means the start of back-to-back fixtures with one of our group opponents. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton prepare for a Scandinavian test…
England and Sweden meet in the Champions League for the first time since Arsenal faced AIK in 1999. Chelsea and Malmo did, however, share pitches in the 2018/19 Europa League Round of 32. The Blues won home and away (3-0 and 2-1) against Uwe Rosler’s side and went on to smash the Gunners 4-1 in the final.
Malmo is linked to Copenhagen via the road and rail connection across the Oresund strait made famous by a Scandi-noir crime series so, it is ‘The Bridge’ at the Bridge this evening.
Highlights from our Europa League home match against Malmo back in 2019
The Blues are unbeaten in Europe against Swedish opposition, winning three and drawing three, although Atvidaberg progressed on the now defunct away goals following a 1-1 Cup Winners’ Cup draw at Stamford Bridge in 1971/72.
Malmo arrive having lost 11 of their last dozen matches in this competition, and all of the past five with an aggregate of no goals for, 24 against.
The champions of Europe will be determined to regain the initiative after a lacklustre performance at Juventus last time out. Elsewhere in Group H tonight, the Old Lady will be entertained by Zenit.
Since October 2003, Chelsea have lost just two of our 48 home Champions League group stage matches, winning 33.
— KEY STAT
Chelsea team news
Thiago Silva, Toni Rudiger and Hakim Ziyech are all declared fit for this evening’s important fixture. It is the second game in a string of seven where Chelsea are odds-on to win, Thomas Tuchel saying the challenge for his team is to prove worthy of favouritism on each occasion.
Wins in both the back-to-back matches against Malmo would leave the Blues realistically needing one further win to remain in this competition after Christmas.
It would also be handy if the goals could flow a little easier: the 1-0 beating of the Bees was our seventh score of one or fewer this season. Romelu Lukaku has scored with four of his seven shots on target since returning to the Bridge but is not yet regularly provided in the way he would like.
As in the previous post-international games Tuchel took a calculated selection risk at Brentford, picking Malang Sarr at left centre-back for a derby debut in the league. Although Toni Rudiger is fit again for this evening, Sarr more than justified the Bavarian’s faith.
Every Touch | The best of Malang Sarr's Premier League debut at Brentford
A stand-out performance on his Premier League debut, re-watch the very best of Malang Sarr's excellent match against Brentford.
Tuchel’s astute handling of others is paying off too. Left wing-back Ben Chilwell, who has been gradually eased back into the side, rewarded that care with his third goal in three top-flight games straddling two seasons.
Similarly Ruben ‘Rubinho’ Loftus-Cheek has starred in a deep-lying playmaker role, using his power and intelligence to screen the ball or dribble through the Bees’ midfield.
N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic were handed more advanced wide roles in the west London derby, joining attacks but also running the flanks defensively. So far, Kova leads the way in this competition in touches of the ball, and passes into the final third and penalty area.
Kante could make his first Champions League appearance since the final in Porto this evening, and Jorginho, rested at the weekend, will be eager for minutes. Mason Mount and Reece James may return, with Christian Pulisic the only one ruled out.
Tuchel wryly observed Saturday’s 1-0 was ‘maybe not the cleanest sheet we ever had’ with woodwork and Trevoh Chalobah helping to preserve another shut-out for the ever-impressive Edou Mendy. Our number one has saved 90.9 per cent of all shots on target faced across all competitions. The Senegal keeper has also intercepted 50 per cent of the crosses he has faced in Europe this season.
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Malmo on a mission
Head coach Jon Dahl Tomasson has described Malmo as underdogs with a ‘special team spirit’. The 1979 European Cup runners-up arrive at Stamford Bridge goalless and pointless after two Group H games but believing ‘anything is possible’.
The Allsvenskan champions have conceded the second most goals as well as good scoring opportunities among all teams in this season’s competition. In the 2015/16 group stage they lost five of their six games without scoring, including an 8-0 defeat at Real Madrid, but beat Shakhtar 1-0.
The past few weeks have allowed the Swedish league leaders to rest heavily used players, return others to fitness, and enjoy a glut of goals in cup and league. Strikers Veljko Birmancevic and Malik Abubakari found the net five times a week ago in their cup victory against tier-four minnows Onsala, and won 3-0 away on Saturday against the team marooned at the bottom of the table, Ostersund.
Several players remain sidelined tonight, though, and regular centre-back Anel Ahmedhodzic is suspended following his dismissal during the Swedes’ 4-0 loss in St Petersburg. With fewer centre-backs available than is ideal, Tomasson might be tempted to switch to a 4-5-1 formation but has used a 5-3-2 up to now in Europe.
That allows clever Serbia winger Birmancevik to combine and rotate with centre-forward Toni Colak, who netted five times in Malmo’s qualifying campaign, starting in early July. One of Colak’s two killer goals at Ibrox against Rangers came from a long throw-in.
At the rear the Sky Blues are well-drilled, and had largely restricted Zenit to hopeful strikes from distance until the sending-off opened the floodgates. A recent mishandling against Mjallby by goalkeeper Johan Dahlin, now 35, costing Malmo league points.
We have history
Their goalie Dahlin, full-backs Soren Rieks and Eric Larsson, centre-backs Anel Ahmedhodzic and Lasse Nielsen, and midfielders Anders Christiansen, Oscar Lewicki and Romain Gall were all in the squad that night.
When away goals ruled
Fifty years ago tonight Chelsea drew 0-0 with Atvidaberg at their small stadium in a tree-lined valley. Despite manager Dave Sexton noting ‘our finishing was disappointing’, winning the second leg of the round two tie was expected to be a formality. Then, as now, Chelsea were defending a European crown.
However, two weeks later the Swedish part-timers equalised Alan Hudson’s opener at the Bridge. Five minutes earlier John Hollins had hit the post from a penalty that was expected to make it 2-0, and the closest the Blues came to a winner after the setback was John Dempsey’s header off the bar the crowd was certain crossed the line.
The ‘away goals’ rule (abolished this season) had been in place since 1965 and the Londoners, 21-0 conquerors of Jeunesse Hautcharage in the previous round, fell victim to it for the first time with a 1-1 draw.
Landmark for Thomas?
Should Thomas Tuchel steer his side to another shut-out this evening, his 10th Champions League outing with the club, Chelsea will equal the record for fewest goals conceded under a new coach in the competition set by Fabio Capello’s early 1990s Milan and equalled by Jose Mourinho at Real Madrid in 2011. In the nine games so far under the Bavarian the Blues have kept six clean sheets.
Youth up at midday
Live coverage of the latest outing for Andy Myers’ youngsters is on this website and the 5th Stand app from 11.55am UK time.
Champions League results and fixtures
Club Brugge 1 Man City 5
Paris Saint Germain 3 RB Leipzig 2
Porto 1 AC Milan 3
Atletico Madrid 2 Liverpool 3
Ajax 4 Dortmund 0
Besiktas 1 Sporting Lisbon 4
Shakhtar Donetsk 0 Real Madrid 5
Inter Milan 3 Sheriff 1
Barcelona v Dynamo Kiev 5.45pm
Benfica v Bayern Munich 8pm
Man Utd v Atalanta 8pm
Young Boys v Villarreal 8pm
RB Salzburg v Wolfsburg 5.45pm
Lille v Sevilla 8pm
Chelsea v Malmo 8pm
Zenit St Petersburg v Juventus 8pm