So I've been putting off writing this preview for too long. It's not because I'm lazy* but rather it's because pretty much everyone's talking about this match and they're all doing a much better job than I am. We've already had a tactical preview courtesy of the always-fantastic CareFree Chronicles on this site, and on the mothership a much better writer than I in Andi Thomas has done a brilliant job of summarising the background behind this game. What's left for me to do?
*Although I am lazy.
To be honest, not much. As a fan, I'm really stressed out about this match. Does it matter that Chelsea not play in the Europa League? Well, yes. Yes it does. The Blues have an excellent record in the Champions League group stages and we're all rightly proud of that, and the overall performances in this year's campaign to date have, as Andre Villas-Boas pointed out in his press conference earlier today, not really pointed towards an essentially must-win match against Valencia on Tuesday.
And yet, here we are. Three late goals - one against Valencia and two at Bayer Leverkusen - have cost Chelsea very dear and could well mean that the Blues go crashing out of the Champions League at the first hurdle. It's very tempting to get focused on us being knocked out, because worrying about worst-case scenarios is something long-time Blues fans do very well, but one of the things we should probably keep in mind is Valencia are probably even more scared than we are.
First of all, we're better than they are. We bought their best player. Ever Banega is probably injured. Roberto Soldado is still around and while it'd be reallllly nice if he got food poisoning or Ebola or something we're probably stuck with him. But even with Soldado, Los Che were rather thoroughly outplayed at the Mestalla, and only Diego Alves and Salomon Kalou prevented Chelsea from getting the three points there. Now we're at home in a game they have to stop us from winning. I can't imagine Valencia are very happy about that one.
Anyway, if there's one thing to take away from this rather pointless little preview, it's that we should all take some small amount of relief from the fact that our Valencian counterparts are even more nervous about this game than we are.
Hopefully in a few hours we'll have come away with a comfortable win - as of the time of writing, 88% of this site's readers think Chelsea will advance - and then we can stop fretting over all of this. In a season that's been less than fun so far it sure would be nice to have some ups to go with the downs. Let's do this!