Schalke v Chelsea: Di Matteo won't enjoy his Blues reunion

Roberto Di Matteo could be in for a tough evening
Roberto Di Matteo could be in for a tough evening
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Chelsea come up against a familiar face on Tuesday, but Kevin Hatchard doesn't expect the Blues to do Roberto Di Matteo any favours...

"Schalke have had a weakness against elite sides in recent seasons, and they haven't beaten Chelsea in five Champions League meetings."

Back Chelsea to win at 1.845/6

Schalke v Chelsea
Tuesday November 25, 19:45
Live on Sky Sports 5


Schalke

Understandably, much has been made of the emotional connection that Schalke boss Roberto Di Matteo has with Tuesday's opponents Chelsea. Having excelled as a Chelsea player, the Italian then achieved what Jose Mourinho, Guus Hiddink, Big Phil Scolari and Andre Villas-Boas couldn't, as he coached the Blues to the Champions League trophy. The debate will always rage about just how much influence Di Matteo had during his stunning spell as caretaker boss - the fact he was sacked just months into his first full season did his legacy few favours - but no-one can ever take away that memorable night in Munich.

Di Matteo has played down the significance of facing Chelsea, insisting he's not interested in revenge for his curt dismissal. He is right to do so, because this is a vital game. Schalke have reached the last 16 of the Champions League in three of the last four seasons, and failure to repeat that feat would be seen as a disaster, especially as Maribor and Sporting Lisbon are hardly European heavyweights.

Di Matteo has tried to make Schalke more organised, but he has found that fixing the Royal Blues' defence is like trying to plug a leaking dam with fistfuls of toilet roll. Schalke have shipped 12 goals in seven games under their new boss, and they nearly blew a 3-0 lead at the weekend; left clinging on for dear life at the end of a 3-2 win over Wolfsburg. That said, Di Matteo does deserve credit for surprising Wolfsburg with a 3-5-2 formation.

At least Di Matteo has been able to maintain Schalke's fine home record - in Gelsenkirchen they have won all four home games since the Italian took the reins, and they are yet to taste defeat on home soil this season.


Chelsea

There is a terrifying efficiency about Chelsea on and off the field this season. Their summer spending was done with laser-like precision. We need a really good centre-forward. We'll buy Diego Costa. We could do with an exceptional attacking midfielder who can create bags of goals. Ok, here's Cesc Fabregas. Won't Thibault Courtois coming back be a bit awkward with Petr Cech? Nah, stick big Petr on the bench. No fuss, and no sentiment.

On the field it's been a similar story. Chelsea have won ten and drawn two of their 12 Premier League games, and they've scored at least twice in ten of those outings. Costa, Fabregas and Eden Hazard have all sparkled, Nemanja Matic is a monstrous figure in midfield, and Mourinho is trying to mould the defence into a typically miserly unit (although they've kept just one clean sheet in five games).

Chelsea remain unbeaten this term, but they have had a couple of minor slip-ups in the Champions League. They curiously surrendered a position of strength in a 1-1 draw with Schalke at Stamford Bridge, and needed a 73rd-minute equaliser from Matic to rescue a 1-1 draw in Slovenia against Maribor. Despite those hiccups, Opta tell us Chelsea can make the last 16 with a win, or a draw with at least two goals for each side.


Match Odds

Given Schalke's strong home record, Chelsea may seem too short at 1.845/6, but I think that price is about right. In the past few seasons, Schalke have had a genuine weakness against elite sides, and they haven't beaten Chelsea in five Champions League meetings. Indeed, that equaliser at Stamford Bridge in September was the only goal Schalke have ever scored against Chelsea in Europe's premier competition.

Chelsea have no fresh injury concerns, and there's every reason to believe Mourinho will select a strong side, as he won't want to leave anything to chance going into the final game against Sporting Lisbon. Schalke are tough to beat on home turf, but I just don't trust that defence against Chelsea's firepower. It's also worth noting that in their two home games to date in this group stage, Schalke drew 1-1 with Maribor, and needed a debatable 90th-minute penalty to beat Sporting 4-3. I'm siding with the visitors.


Over 2.5 Goals

The market is split here, with Under 2.5 Goals trading at 1.991/1, and Over 2.5 Goals at 1.9620/21. There is evidence to support both arguments. Three of Chelsea's four Champions League games have featured fewer than three goals, and Opta tell us they haven't scored more than once in any of their last six UCL away games.

However, I'm leaning towards an overs bet, especially as Schalke have scored and conceded in all six of their Champions League games in 2014. They also let in seven goals in two games against Sporting Lisbon.

I don't expect Schalke to be able to keep Chelsea out for 90 minutes, but there's every chance they could score themselves. Strikers Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (they love a hyphen in Gelsenkirchen) played as a pair at the weekend, and looked very dangerous indeed.  

This could be the game where Chelsea really make a statement in this competition, instead of slipping into cruise control when they feel they've done enough, so I'm going for Over 2.5 Goals.


Recommended Bets
Back Chelsea to win at 1.845/6
Back Over 2.5 Goals at 1.9620/21


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