2017 UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FINAL HOTELS, CARDIFF June 3RD & KIEV 2018 - CLICK HERE to BOOK HOTELS PACKAGES Chelsea vs Shakhtar Preview: Why this is Di Matteo’s biggest test so far

Chelsea vs Shakhtar Preview: Why this is Di Matteo’s biggest test so far

The last few weeks have probably been the most disappointing few weeks for Roberto Di Matteo ever since he has taken charge of this Chelsea side. The side has just won once in their last 4 games and dreaded racism battle has again picked up in this Chelsea side after Chelsea lodged an official complaint against referee Mark Clattenburg after the game at Stamford Bridge against Manchester United.

The on field display have not been the usual as the side stumbled again in the league after conceding a late goal away at Swansea in what was a very lack luster performance by the Blues. Chelsea who boasted the best defensive record in the league have now conceded 4 in their past 2 league games and 10 in their past 4 games in all competitions and although one might argue Chelsea have missed their inspirational captain on field the goals they have conceded have been due to school boy defending by the men in blue.

Although the side has been reasonably good going forward with Juan Mata being the key to Chelsea’s attacking success so far, the side clearly missed him against Swansea when Chelsea looked anything but what they have looked like this season. Fernando Torres who has been Chelsea’s main striker so far still lacks that killer instinct in front of the goal and his partner Daniel Sturridge though managed to score a vital goal against Manchester United in the Capital One Cup  still does not look like the center forward Chelsea really need right now.

The midfield pivot although looks sorted with Ramires and Mikel as the first choice players the side looked rather poor without Ramires in the XI against both Manchester United and Swansea. Romeu who has hardly picked up games for Chelsea since AVB left has looked rather poor in the pivot with Mikel.

Shakhtar on the other hand are still going strong having won 14/14 games in the league and top of a group that has the Italian and the European champions. Credit has to be given to Henrik Mkhitarian along with Luiz Adriano and rumored Chelsea target Willian who have been excellent so far in the attack for the Ukrainians.  Manager Mircea Lucescu will hope his side can pull off a performance similar to what they managed the last time these two sides fared. Lucescu knows that a win in this game puts them in a very strong position to qualify for the next round. Shakhtar manager Mircea Lucescu has tasted victory in London before. His Besiktas emerged 2-0 victors at SB back in the 03/04 UCL.

Di Matteo will play his strongest available lineup and with no major injury concern apart from Frank Lampard, Chelsea are expected to start in their similar 4-2-3-1 formation with the “holy trinity” backing Fernando Torres,though any prefer Sturridge in that role but doubt Di Matteo will make this change. Chelsea should welcome back John Terry who has missed the last 3 games due to suspension and will get some much needed game time before he makes his Premier League return against Liverpool.

We are all aware of Chelsea’s tactics this season with Mata-Hazard-Oscar playing the supporting cast to Fernando Torres and Ramires making those occasional runs forward. Mikel will play his usual role of sitting back and assisting the center backs/full backs when they move forward. The only real concern for Chelsea will be the form of Ashley Cole who has been poor for the past few weeks and with the likes of Willian/Mkhitarian attacking Cole will need to keep tabs on his attacking runs. Another major concern has been the lack of support Mata and Hazard have provided to the full backs something which Ramires provided last season.

Shakhtar, just like Chelsea will line up in their 4-2-3-1 formation with Henrik Mkhitarian their key midfielder playing just behind the striker Luiz Adriano. Ex-Chelsea target Willian will look to trouble the full backs along with Ilsinho with their pace and seeing Ashley Cole’s encounter with AntonValencia over the weekend, the Shakhtar wingers will surely think they are in with a chance.

Luis Fernandinho and Tomáš Hübschman will make up the two-man defensive midfield and will look to stop Chelsea’s attacking trio of Oscar, Mata and Hazard. Shakhtar will need to keep in mind is that like the Blues, both Darijo Srna and Razvan Rat will look to make runs from full back positions leaving a lot of space behind them for Di Matteo’s side to exploit. Kucher and Rakitskiy will look to keep a check on Fernando Torres, who although has been scoring goals, still looks short of his best and the Ukrainian side will look to frustrate him.

Shakhtar Last 5 Results : D W W W W

Chelsea Last 5 Results : W W L W D

Predicted Score: Chelsea 2-1 Shakhtar.
Expecting the blues to bounce back after their poor display over the past few weeks. The Ukrainian side dominated the last fixture at home but playing at Stamford Bridge will give Chelsea the incentive. I am expecting Chelsea to win this game and put themselves in a decent position in the Group.

-Shikharr Chandra (@ShikharrC)

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