Chelsea opened this year's Champions League campaign at home against Schalke 04. Now, we can clinch qualification into the knockout rounds against the same opposition with one game to spare in the group stage. A reunion with a club legend only adds to the occasion.
On this day: 2012 - Roberto Di Matteo was sacked as manager of @chelseafc. #CFC #Chelsea pic.twitter.com/mynoeZArDj— Chad (@ChelseaChadder) November 21, 2014
Almost exactly two years ago now. Time flies!
Despite how easy the group looked on paper, it hasn't exactly been smooth sailing for the Blues. Two disappointing 1-1 draws, and two dominant wins (though only one of the two reflected that in the final scoreline) have left the Blues in a theoretically dangerous position.
"If we lose two matches we go to the Europa League. It makes no sense to speak about the last 16. We need points to carry on playing in the Champions League and that's why we are here - to get the points."
"We have two matches to do it but obviously it would be better for us to qualify tomorrow. We have so many matches in December if we can avoid a crucial match to decide the qualification for the Champions League, if we can avoid that pressure, it would be very good for us."
"The reality is we need points and we are going to try to do it tomorrow but if we don't, we have the last game against Sporting to try and stay in the competition."
-Jose Mourinho; source: Chelsea FC
In all likelihood, there's little to fear. While a 1-1 draw still leaves the minuscule possibility of dropping into the Europa League on goal difference, three points today (or a draw where we score more than 1 goal) ensures that there'll be definitely nothing to fear.
Date / Time: Tuesday, November 25, 2014, 19:45 GMT; 2:45pm EST; 1:15am (next day)
Venue: Veltins-Arena, Gelsenkirchen, Germany
Forecast: Somewhat sunny, dry, but cool.
Referee: Jonas Eriksson - nowadays regarded as one Europe's best, the Swedish referee (and possible millionaire) was one of the nine UEFA-based referees at last summer's World Cup. He's been in charge of four Chelsea games in his career, the Blues winning two and drawing the last two. Both of those were memorable occasions: the 2-2 draw against Bayern Munich in the Super Cup and the 0-0 away draw against Atlético in the Champions League semifinals.
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Schalke 04 Team News: Schalke are better off both injury-wise and performance-wise than the last time we saw them in September, but it's not all quite roses and unicorns for Roberto Di Matteo, especially with the jewel of Schalke Julian Draxler out with a thigh injury. Additional injury victims include Sead Kolasinac, Jefferson Farfan, and Fabian Giefer.
After a terrible start to the season, Schalke have steadied the ship and find themselves 7th in the Bundesliga, just three points off the European places. Their home form has been quietly tremendous, unbeaten in fact all season and riding a four-match winning streak.
Chelsea Team News: Jose brought tidings of a clean bill of health for the squad. Which apparently means that Nathan Aké has been downgraded from injured to chopped liver. Poor, poor Nathan.
Previously: Earlier this season, Schalke finally managed to score their first ever goal against Chelsea in five tries. Let's hope this won't be their first ever win against Chelsea.