Champions League: Are Chelsea being underestimated?

Chelsea are as big a threat in Europe as the Premier League

Michael Lintorn thinks that fourth favourites Chelsea are an attractive bet to win the Champions League...

"Mourinho has taken whichever team he has been managing to the semi-finals in all five Champions League editions to date this decade."

Whereas you can't pick up a paper between Friday and Monday without reading some reference to Chelsea going the entire Premier League campaign unbeaten - an 11.010/1 prospect on Betfair - their Champions League credentials don't seem to be getting anywhere near as much midweek publicity.

The Blues confirmed that they will be participating in the round-of-16 for the 11th time in 12 seasons with a game to spare courtesy of a 5-0 victory away to the same Schalke side who have held Bayern Munich and defeated Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga this term.

However, Jose Mourinho's men are just fourth favourites to win the competition at 7.26/1, a price which puts them behind Bayern Munich 4.216/5, Real Madrid 4.57/2 and Barcelona 6.86/1.

Both Chelsea and Mourinho have exceptional records in the competition, with three triumphs and a runners-up medal between them in the past 11 years alone.

The Special One has taken whichever team he has been managing to the semi-finals in all five editions to date this decade, while the Londoners have been that far a phenomenal seven times in the last 11 years.

The most significant argument in their favour is that they made it all the way to the final four last season with a squad that nobody rated too highly which was only good enough to finish third in the Premier League despite Man United underperforming, eliminating Paris St-Germain along the way.

Chelsea's side which were 47 minutes shy of reaching a Champions League final has been enhanced enormously, with the likes of Thibaut Courtois, Nemanja Matic (cup-tied before), Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa in for Mark Schwarzer, David Luiz, Ramires and Fernando Torres, who started that day.

There is greater depth as well, particularly in attack. Against Maribor, Loic Remy deputised for Costa, scored and then made way for Didier Drogba, who also struck. Then, both the Ivorian and Ramires came off the bench to net in the 5-0 rout against Schalke.

If you subscribe to the view that they will win the Premier League title without much of a struggle, as their eight-point lead over champions Man City and Betfair odds of 1.211/5 indicate the majority indeed do, then that should be beneficial to their European challenge.

It is arguable that Bayern Munich in 2012/13 and Chelsea in 2011/12 both benefitted from reduced domestic strain, the former because they won the Bundesliga so easily and the latter due to being off the pace in the Premier League and therefore prioritising the cups instead.

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