The first ever Europa League group stage match at Stamford Bridge will see Chelsea take on Hungarian champions MOL Vidi FC in what is ostensibly the easiest match of the group stage. Vidi, renamed in the summer from the more familiar Videoton due to sponsorship reasons, may have been the best team in the Hungarian NB1 last season, but they were one of the lowest ranked sides by UEFA to reach this stage of the Europa League.
Nothing less than three points is expected for Maurizio Sarri’s men, with or without mass amounts of rotation. For Vidi, it’s an opportunity to measure themselves against top European opposition; they have nothing to lose and that can be dangerous.
It’s not quite the Champions League, but it’s still another grand-ish European night at Stamford Bridge.
Date / Time: Thursday, October 4th, 2018, 20:00 BST; 3pm EDT; 12:30am IST (next day)
Venue: Stamford Bridge, London SW6
Referee: Miroslav Zelinka — 37-year-old from the Czech Republic, who’s been a FIFA certified referee since 2011. This will be his 50th match in UEFA competition and 28th in the Europa League proper. He’s never handled a Chelsea match.
Forecast: Dry, mild. Forecast is for 16°C (60°F), negligible wind and no rain.
On TV: BT Sport 2 (UK); none (USA); SONY TEN 2 HD (India); elsewhere
Streaming online: BT Sport Live (UK); B/R Live (USA); SONY LIV (India)
Chelsea team news: After rotating about half the team for the 1-0 win over PAOK a fortnight ago in Greece, Sarri hinted at a slightly more adventurous lineup for today.
We will likely be without Pedro again, who was one of the players retained for that PAOK match but picked up a shoulder injury that has kept him out ever since. There’s hopefully better news for Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who should be in line for a start provided he’s fit. Callum Hudson-Odoi may feature as well.
Chelsea have not lost since the glorified friendly that was the Community Shield two months ago and almost beat Liverpool twice in the space of four days last week. We’re still learning Sarri-ball, especially in the defensive phase, and the lack of goals from players not named Eden Hazard or Pedro is concerning, but it’s been a better start to the season than most would’ve expected. Confidence abounds once again at the Bridge, and Chelsea could really put up a nice big number on the scoreboard today.
Vidi FC team news: Founded in 1941, “Vidi” were known as some variation on Videoton for most of their existence (Videoton SC for over 20 years, for example). Videoton are a local electronics company who never actually had any sort of sponsorship agreement with the club. Eventually, the company name morphed into an eponym for the team so even when they were renamed, they were called that by the supporters and even the media. But the club have actually been sponsored by MOL (Hungary’s biggest oil company) since 2010, so the official name change was probably long overdue. Still, the old name lives on in a sense as “Vidi” is a nickname derived from “Videoton”.
Vidi have been one of the most successful teams in Hungary over the past decade (and have become associated, for better or worse, with the leading political powers of the country as well). Since 2009-10 only once have they finished outside of the top two, winning three times and finishing runners-up five times. That said, their biggest European success was back in the mid-80s, when they were losing finalists in the 1985 UEFA Cup, beaten by Real Madrid 3-1 on aggregate (it was two-legged final). It was during that run that Vidi paid their one and only previous visit to England, losing 1-0 to Manchester United at Old Trafford, but beating them by the same scoreline two weeks later and advancing on penalties to the semifinals.
Currently managed by former FK Partizan head coach Marko Nikolić, Vidi have not started the season too well and have already fallen 8 points behind Ferencváros (i.e. FTC or Fradi) in the table, albeit with a game-in-hand. Part of the reason for their slow start domestically has been their grueling and incredibly busy summer. This will be their 19th competitive match of the season already (10th for Chelsea), which began before Sarri was even appointed Chelsea head coach, in the Champions League qualifying stages in early July. As Champions of Hungary, Vidi had to start at the very bottom of the ladder. They beat F91 Dudelange from Liechtenstein, then beat Ludogorers Razgrad from Bulgaria, then beat Malmö FF from Sweden ... and then they narrowly lost to AEK Athens at the final hurdle to drop into the Europa League group stage draw.
The team’s biggest stars (or at least biggest names) are Hungarian veterans Roland Juhász, who played for Anderlecht for nearly a decade, and Szabolcs Huszti (pictured just above), who made his name in the Bundesliga, mostly for Hannover 96. But they are both 35 at this point, which might say more about your editor’s working knowledge of Hungarian football than of their actual qualities. The team counts four Hungarian internationals among its current members, defenders Attila Fiola and Paulo Vinícius (born in Brazil, as the name might indicate), and midfielders István Kovács and Máté Pátkai. Five other players in the squad have caps for Hungary.
Vidi were counting on another 35-year-old to be a big player for them this season, but Danko Lazović, a target man of solid goalscoring prowess and their leading goalscorer last season, suddenly retired a couple weeks ago.
Built on a core of Hungarian players, Vidi do have a couple imports from Serbia — brothers Marko and Stefan Šćepović — and three players from Bosnia: a Hadžić, a Hodžić ... and a Hadzic. Only eight more needed for a full set!
Previously: The last time a team of Hungarians turned up at the Bridge, in December 1954, the world was still in black-and-white. Chelsea, who would go on to win the club’s first ever league title later that season, missed three (3!) penalties and yet still managed a 2-2 draw against a team that featured some of the best players of the Magical Magyars (who beat England in the famous 6-3 a year before, but then even more famously lost the 1954 World Cup final). The visitors that day were “Vörös Lobogó” (i.e. Red Banner) who are called MTK Budapest these days.