The Blues’ first overseas game of the season is upon us. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton check out today’s Champions League outing…
Chelsea and Krasnodar tap elbows for the first time tonight. The Bulls will be the 55th different side the Blues have met in the Champions League, and the fourth from the Russian Federation. The Londoners have been victorious in five of the past six games against sides from Krasnodar’s homeland, though all the previous away fixtures were staged in Moscow.
Tonight is the first of two early starts in this season’s group stage for Chelsea, who are unbeaten in six matches at the 5.55pm time slot since 2018, all on the road.
Both this evening’s combatants drew last time out, matchday one in Group E comprising a stalemate between Chelsea and Sevilla at the Bridge, and a game with a 5,000 crowd present to witness a 1-1 draw for the Russians at Rennes’ stadium. Around 11,000 home supporters will be allowed in tonight, too.
Krasnodar, the seventh Russian club to qualify for the group stage of this competition, are unbeaten after their only previous contact with an English club. They drew 1-1 with Everton in the 2014/15 UEFA Europa League at home, before winning 1-0 on Merseyside.
One Chelsea player has already scored against Krasnodar this week, however. Victor Moses, on loan to Spartak Moscow, netted the second goal in the visiting side’s 3-1 Premier Liga victory on Saturday.
Chelsea team news
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, a pundit for the Manchester United-Chelsea match at the weekend, voiced the feelings of many when he said the true value of the point at Old Trafford will only be established in retrospect, after the next few results.
The importance of the clean sheet, though, was immediately obvious, especially as it was preserved by Edou Mendy’s fine late save. That was his third shut-out in four matches for the Blues. The Senegalese is the first Chelsea stopper not to concede in his opening two top-flight starts since Petr Cech in 2004. One of Cech’s games back then was also against the Red Devils.
At the same time, Thiago Silva ranked top for passes, accuracy, clearances and blocks, some of which were crucially timed, and full-backs Reece James and Ben Chilwell excelled once again.
If the defence has a settled feel to it, Frank Lampard acknowledged his team did not quite show ‘the absolute penetration we normally have’ in the final third. That is something he will hope to see return over the next few matches, with this trip to south Russia the catalyst. It will help shape the future of Group E.
The head coach may make several changes in anticipation of a physical league encounter at Burnley in three days’ time, with Saturday’s substitutes Callum Hudson-Odoi and Tammy Abraham pushing for starts in the quest for goals following five draws in six games.
Creative midfielder Hakim Ziyech, who has looked closer to full fitness and has plenty of Champions League experience, could be in line for his start in royal blue.
The Blues are unbeaten in six Champions League group matches since the home defeat by Valencia last season, recording three wins and three draws since.
Our opponents coach Murad Musaev likes his players to dominate the ball with intent, Ajax-style, and they average around 60 per cent in possession statistics, with Swedish midfielder Kristoffer Olsson – unavailable recently – playing a pivotal role. The Russians commit plenty of men forward at times but leave gaps that quick counter-attacking teams can exploit.
Olsson has been one of many absentees over the past two games. Musaev, the coach, missed the Rennes trip through tonsillitis, while Brazilian forwards – Ari and Wanderson Maciel, formerly of Salzburg – plus wide midfielder Viktor Claesson and homegrown utility man Sergei Petrov have been injured.
Ex-Newcastle forward Remy Cabella, who scored the group stage-clinching goals against PAOK, and new signing Evgeni Markov have been quarantining after positive Covid-19 tests. Captain and experienced defender Aleksandr Martynovich was omitted from the Champions League line-up but returned for the home defeat by Spartak. Few are expected to return this evening.
Musaev has generally favoured 4-3-3 but with so many out he has switched to 4-4-1-1, with two of the four full-backs he selected, Igor Smolnikov and Cristian Ramirez, acting as wingers out of necessity.
They were under cosh and out of possession in France, but goalkeeper Matvei Safonov put in an outstanding performance and Ecuadorean Ramirez, pressed into service on the left flank, fired in a brilliant equaliser. The Spartak match on Saturday was a more even encounter but with a worse result for the Bulls as a result of efficient finishing.
Overall it is the Krasnoadar’s collective resolve that is impressive. ‘Everyone was fighting for each other,’ young academy graduate Shapi Suleymanov declared after the hard-fought 1-1 draw in Brittany. ‘Discipline beats class.’
How to watch Krasnodar-Chelsea
This match is covered live by BT Sport in the UK. For the relevant broadcaster where you are overseas, check UEFA’s TV Guide.
Chelsea TV’s matchday programming is available on the 5th Stand, Facebook Live and our official YouTube channel with three live shows: pre-match (starting 70 minutes before kick-off), half-time, and post match.
Features will include the first look at the teamsheets at 4.55pm, live warm-up action and a blue-tinted discussion and analysis.
It’s a long haul
Matches between Chelsea and Krasnodar will involve the longest jaunts of the Champions League group stage, with four-and-a-half-hour flights each way between London and southern Russia.
The round trip is roughly 3,662 miles, a little short of the record 3,836 set in 2015 when Benfica of Portugal and Astana of Kazakhstan met in the group stage. The Blues’ shortest trip in any competition this season will be to Craven Cottage, 1.6 miles away.
The rise of Krasnodar
Chelsea Football Club has always shaped history. Even in our foundation year, 1905, the ambitious Pensioners became the first brand new team to enter the English Football League without playing a match previously.
Krasnodar, founded 103 years later in 2008, have changed Russia’s football landscape in similar fashion. In fact, outside of founding members, the Bulls are the only professional club to reach the top flight of a major European league without achieving promotion through a league finish.
Twice, in 2008 and 2010, they finished outside the promotion places but were elevated thanks to the financial woes of rival clubs. Since landing in the Premier Liga, they have become the epitome of the modern Russian club, with a well-funded squad drawn from all corners of the world.
Honours have so far eluded the young outfit, who have finished third three times and reached the Russian Cup final once. This is the Black-Greens’ first foray in the Champions League proper. They failed to reach the group stage in 2019, winning a third qualifier but losing out to Olympiacos in a play-off. Once again fortune smiled on Krasnodar as the rules changed this year, putting them straight into the play-off round, where they overcame another Greek side, PAOK.
For a while they ground-shared with longer-established city rivals Kuban, but since 2016 home has been the Stadion FC Krasnodar, a covered bowl in the suburbs, with infra-red heating for the comfort of just under 35,000 spectators.
Their head coach since April 2018 has been 37-year-old local man Murad Musaev, who was promoted from the same role at youth level.
Fans at games
Sevilla and Bayern enjoyed the then rare privilege of having a live crowd watching when they contested the Super Cup in Budapest last month. There were around 15,000 Spanish and German supporters present in the Puskas Arena, a 67,000-capacity stadium.
UEFA kept open the possibility of up to 30 per cent of spectator capacity returning to grounds on a country-by-country basis, and the Rennes-Krasnodar game was attended by a smattering of supporters. Krasnodar had fans in their ground for Spartak on Saturday, and will do so again this evening – Chelsea’s first experience of an atmosphere since the test friendly at Brighton in pre-season.
Tonight’s rules of attendance include temperature tests outside the stadium and the compulsory wearing of masks and gloves. No travelling support is permitted.
Champions League results and fixtures
TuesdayLokomotiv Moscow 1 Bayern Munich 2Shakhtar Donetsk 0 Inter Milan 0Atalanta 2 Ajax 2Atletico Madrid 3 RB Salzburg 2Borussia Monchengladbach 2 Real Madrid 2Liverpool 2 Midtjylland 0Marseille 0 Manchester City 3Porto 2 Olympiacos 0WednesdayKrasnodar v Chelsea 5.55pmIstanbul Basaksehir v PSG 5.55pmSevilla v Rennes 8pmClub Brugge v Lazio 8pmDortmund v Zenit St Petersburg 8pmFerencvaros v Dynamo Kiev 8pmJuventus v Barcelona 8pmMan Utd v RB Leipzig 8pm
Check out some pre-match stats