Allen Hamilton

What: UEFA Champions League
Who: Chelsea vs Marseille
When: Tuesday 28th August, 2010, at 19:45 UK Time
Where: Stamford Bridge, London, England

Getting Back on Track

Chelsea’s start to the season had been all-conquering, until last week at least. A home defeat to Newcastle United in the League Cup was not on its own enough to set any alarm bells ringing, Chelsea always considering the competition a chance to give fringe players a run out; followed by a loss away to Manchester City at the weekend though, it is a little more concerning. The challenge therefore has been set for Carlo Ancelotti’s men, to bounce back to winning ways against Marseille in the Champions League.

Ancelotti is already sure though that the club’s weekend defeat is something not too much should be made of. "We also lost here last year", said the Italian after the City game, "it’s not a good pitch for us". Such problems will not be evident at Stamford Bridge, which most evidently is a good pitch for the Blues. Having won all three Premier League games at their London home so far this season, scoring 12 goals and not conceding once, it is hard to believe that Chelsea won’t be in prime position to continue their imperious form and consign their weekend defeat to history.

A Return to Old Stomping Grounds

Marseille coach Didier Deschamps knows all about Stamford Bridge, having spent the 1999/2000 season plying his trade for the club. The midfielder is a football obsessive, known to spend hours studying DVDs of opposing players. There is no doubt that, with DVDs of Chelsea easy to come by and contacts within the English game, Deschamps will know just what to expect from Chelsea. Perhaps, as a former Juventus player and manager, and a student of Serie A, he will know what to expect from Carlo Ancelotti too.

The club’s start to the season has been mixed. Selling powerful striker Mamadou Niang to Fenerbahce has left a hole up front which, despite the recruitment of Loic Remy from Nice and Andre-Pierre Gignac from Toulouse, has yet to really be filled. Two league defeats from seven games isn’t great, but is recoverable, and Deschamps’ men sit fifth nevertheless. However, having lost at home to Spartak Moscow on the Champions League’s first matchday, defeat to Chelsea could quickly leave Marseille with a mountain to climb.


Recent form

Chelsea 4-0 Blackpool (19/09; Premier League)
Chelsea 3-4 Newcastle United (22/09; League Cup)
Manchester City 1-0 Chelsea (25/09; Premier League)

Marseille 0-1 Spartak Moscow (15/09; Champions League)
Arles 0-3 Marseille (18/09; Ligue 1)
Marseille 2-1 Sochaux (25/09; Ligue 1)

Key absences

Chelsea: Yossi Benayoun; Salomon Kalou; Frank Lampard; Jose Bosingwa; Didier Drogba (suspended)

Leyti N’Diaye; Loic Remy (doubt)

Players to watch

Chelsea – Florent Malouda: Florent Malouda has simply been flying for Chelsea since the season began and looks a key player for Ancelotti. The French international will know all about Marseille from his time in Ligue 1 – and they will equally know Malouda can hurt them.

Marseille – Lucho Gonzalez: The 29-year-old Argentine is an established Champions League performer, knowing exactly what it takes to face the very best sides in Europe. Lucho cost Marseille a none too insignificant €18M to buy from FC Porto last summer, and he instantly helped Didier Deschamps’ side to win the Ligue 1 title. If Marseille are to trouble Chelsea, Lucho will need to turn in a good shift.

Match prediction

Marseille arrive at Stamford Bridge off the back of two straight Ligue 1 victories; victories that no doubt helped the French champions to put that home defeat to Spartak Moscow behind them. Alas, Chelsea are not Arles, or even Sochaux, and represent a clear step up from even Spartak Moscow. The Blues are motivated to instantly bounce back to winning ways following defeat to Manchester City and it is hard to see how Deschamps’ team will stop them. A comfortable night’s work for Chelsea; 2-0.