There is a big difference between the Champions League and Europa League, and we don't think the Europa League is the best habitat for players who want to be big players. They have to play Champions League...
-José Mourinho; source: Chelsea FC
Dear Champions League: it's so good to be back!
We missed you ever so dearly in the latter half of last season as we trolled around the backwaters of Europe. We had to go to crummy places like Bucharest, Romania and Basel, Switzerland. It was terrible; please don't ever leave us again!
Wait, what do you mean we'll have to go back to Bucharest and Basel? Is this some cruel joke? Is this your punishment? But we've come bearing gifts of
controversy Mourinho and ready to hold you and adore you all the way to the final...
Oh, you just want Fernando to score a few more goals. Oh ok. That's fair then. How very kind of you. Thank you very much! And we even get to open with a home match!
We love you, Champions League!
Date/Time: Wednesday, September 18, 2013, 19:45 BST; 2:45pm EDT; 12:15am IST (next day)
Venue/Location: Stamford Bridge, SW6
Forecast: Chance of rain in the afternoon, should clear up by game time. Quite nice for mid-September.
On TV: Sky Sports 1 (UK); Fox Sports 2 (USA); Ten Action (India); elsewhere
Online: Sky Go (UK); Fox Soccer 2 Go (USA)
Chelsea Squad News: Mourinho promised to ... errr, incubate some eggs? .... give youth a chance, which may not sound so radical once we take into consideration the fact that many of our best and most exciting players are barely of legal (USA) drinking age. He's also limited to the submitted Champions League squad list, which does mean that Tomas Kalas and Michael Essien will be unavailable for selection. Meanwhile, Ramires is suspended due to the red card he picked up in the Super Cup.
Demba Ba was the player chosen for the pre-match press conference, which perhaps bodes well for his prospects of getting a start alongside the already confirmed pair of Frank Lampard and Oscar. Others looking for their first substantial action of the new season include Cesar Azpilicueta, Ryan Bertrand, Marco van Ginkel, Mark Schwarzer, and Willian. Could we see all five of them in the starting lineup as well?
FC Basel Squad News: You may remember FC Basel from two years ago, when they eliminated Manchester United at the Champions League group stages. Their ultimate reward for this monumental effort was Bayern Munich poaching Xherdan Shaqiri and Borussia Mönchengladbach poaching Granit Xhaka from them.
You may also remember FC Basel from last year, when they eliminated Tottenham Hotspur in the Europa League quarterfinals. Their ultimate reward for that monumental effort was a date with Chelsea in the semifinals and Dynamo Kiev poaching Aleksandar Dragovic from them. Somewhere along there, Alexander Frei retired as well.
Point is, Basel were never really all that great to begin with - despite winning seven of the last ten Swiss league titles - and now they're even worse. They're currently third domestically, having won less than half of their matches so far.
Their major summer reinforcement was one Matias Delgado, returning to the club he left six years ago. He has zero caps for Argentina, although that's not necessarily as indicting as it would be for other countries. Here's Tim Palmer's tactical preview from last season - most of it should still apply although Serey Die and Mohamed Elneny will miss this one through injury.
View from the enemy: SB Nation have yet to expand to the ever-lucrative sphere of Swiss Super League blogging.
Previously: This will be the third competitive match between the two sides, all in the last five months. We met them in the semifinals of last year's Europa League-winning campaign: a closely-contested 2-1 first leg victory away in Basel was followed by a relatively simple 3-1 home win at the Bridge. It did get nervy for a moment when Basel scrambled home the first goal in the second leg, but Torres played savior and Victor Moses & David Luiz sealed our passage to the final.
UEFA Youth League: Earlier in the day, Chelsea U19 will play their first match of this brand new continental youth competition, taking on Basel U19 at Cobham. We should see mostly familiar names [squad list] and while closed to spectators, the match will be streamed live on Chelsea TV starting at 13:00 BST / 8am EDT. Join us for that as well.