Chelsea will be heading to Denmark on Tuesday to face what most would consider the weakest team in Group E. Meanwhile, Shakhtar Donetsk will head to Italy in what should be a very interesting game. Many are suggesting that Chelsea should be playing a weaker side in that game, but I disagree.
After Chelsea's draw with Juventus in the first game of the group stage, the total points available in the group dropped from 36 to 35. That total ensures that 12 points will mathematically seal advancement to the knockout round of the Champions League. Chelsea currently sit at one, so that would leave Chelsea needing 11 more to secure advancement.
Chelsea are in a good situation with the fixture list, as their last fixture happens to be Nodsjaelland at Stamford Bridge. In an ideal world, Chelsea wouldn't need a win in that match to secure advancement. That said, should Chelsea require three points to go through, there aren't many better fixtures they could hope to have on the last day of group play.
With that in mind, Chelsea should really be hoping to head into that meeting with Nordsjaelland with at least nine points already secured. If they do that, there is no possible way that a win in that game will see them fail to advance. To reach that point, Chelsea would need to secure eight points over the course of their next four fixtures. Those include Tuesday's trip to Denmark, a tip to the Ukraine, a visit from Shakhtar, and a trip to Italy.
A victory on Tuesday would mean a win and two draws in their remaining games with Shakhtar and Juventus would guarantee Chelsea control their own fate in the final matchup of the group stage. Any points dropped would mean the club has to secure that many more points in those subsequent fixtures in order to ensure their fate remains in their own hands.
A game against Nordsjaelland would usually seem like an ideal time to get some young players a run in the first team, but I really hope we see a more or less full strength team on Tuesday. That doesn't mean we can't hand a start to players like Cesar Azpilicueta and Victor Moses, but those suggesting an all out backup lineup should really look at what dropped points will mean we need to do against the better teams in the group.
Winning this game keeps us a position where we could have a truly meaningless game at the end of the group stage, where dropping points makes it more likely that we'll need a result when we again face the Danish champions. I don't know about the rest of you, but I'd rather not be watching Juventus' trip to the Ukraine on December 5th with anything more than passing interest. Three points tomorrow are big, so let's all hope the Blues come out and take care of business.