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Chelsea at Spartak Moscow: Game Preview

Nicolas Anelka will be leading the line once again.
Nicolas Anelka will be leading the line once again.

Time: 5:30 PM BST (9:30 AM PST), Tuesday October 19th.

Location: The Stygian Marshes Oh no not here again Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow.

Preamble: So I totally thought this game was tomorrow. Sorry about that. Chelsea make their return to the scene of some rather intense psychic trauma, and they do so without the services of a whole host of players, victims of injuries, fevers, and fears about their health on a plastic field. A draw would be good enough for Carlo Ancelotti's men, but Chelsea will still want a win against Spartak Moscow, who are level on points with the Blues at the top of Group F after two rounds of games. A victory in Russia would almost guarantee qualification halfway through the group stages.

Opposition: I don't want to set myself as any sort of authority on this side, so I'm going to write a couple of quick notes and leave it at that. Spartak have been on something of a rebuild as of late, adding a host of Brazilian flair-style players and Irish winger Aiden McGeady to bolster their attacking options. Although they've had an up-and-down season domestically, they've got a 100% record in Europe so far, including a tough away win at Marseilles. Welliton is their star man, having already scored 13 goals in 22 matches this year. Like us, Spartak are also missing a Brazilian Alex to a thigh problem, although their features as a deep-lying playmaker rather than a centreback with the Thunderbolt of Zeus hidden in his boots. Despite a re-tooled attack, they're still not the sort of team that approaches Chelsea in terms of overall quality, but a weakened Chelsea team plus the pitch and home field advantage could mean a pretty well balanced match.

Injury Report: Out: Didier Drogba (fever), Frank Lampard (groin), Ramires (ankle), Jose Bosingwa (knee), Yossi Benayoun (Achilles), Alex (thigh). Doubtful: Michael Essien, Ashley Cole.

Well this could get strange pretty quickly, especially in midfield, where Ancelotti is missing at least three and possibly four. Yuri Zhirkov is a mortal lock to make the team with Ramires out, and young Josh McEachran could feature. Salomon Kalou and Daniel Sturridge will return up front. Either way, this is going to be an approximately half-strength Chelsea side being fielded today.

Prediction: 2-2 in a highly messy, entertaining game.

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