After successfully and easily navigating the club’s first ever Europa League group stage in the fall, Chelsea resume this season’s European adventure with the club’s second ever Europa League knockout stage campaign. Back in 2013, after dropping out of the Champions League in the group stage, Chelsea faced Sparta Prague in this Round of 32, on the exact same Valentine’s Day Thursday, winning 1-0 (then advancing 2-1 on aggregate thanks to Eden Hazard’s late-late second leg winner).
This time Chelsea travel to Sweden rather than the Czech Republic. It will be the Blues’ first visit to the Land of Zlatan in two decades, since beating nearby Helsingborg in the 1998-99 Cup Winners’ Cup first round proper — a scoreless second leg away was enough for the 1-0 aggregate victory, thanks to Franck Leboeuf’s first leg free kick winner.
But it’s not history that’s on everyone’s mind, at least not the kind so relatively ancient. Everyone’s still smarting from the 6-0 beatdown on Sunday, which followed a 4-0 beatdown just ten days prior ... which followed a 2-0 beatdown ten days prior to that. In fact, Chelsea have not scored an away goal in 2019 (360 minutes) and have won just 3 of the last 10 games away from home in all competitions.
Sarri’s job, needless to say, is (probably) on the line.
Date / Time: Thursday, February 14, 2019, 20:00 GMT; 3pm EST; 1:30am IST (next day)
Venue: The awesomely named and currently sponsor-less “Stadion” (i.e. Malmö New Stadium), Malmö, Sweden
Referee: Aleksei Kulbakov — the 39-year-old from Belarus has been a FIFA-licensed referee since 2005, when he was just 25 (the minimum age for it), but this will be his first Chelsea match
Forecast: Cloudy, misty, chilly
On TV: BT Sport 2 (UK); UniMás (USA); SONY TEN 2? (India); elsewhere
Streaming online: BT Sport Live (UK); B/R Live, Univision NOW (USA); SONY LIV? (India)
Malmö FF team news: Malmö finished third on goal difference ahead of Hammarby in last season’s Allsvenskan, which will only start at the end of next month for the 2019 season (they play spring-fall, rather than the usual fall-spring schedule). They started their European campaign way back in July, beating KF Drita and CFR Cluj in the Champions League qualifying rounds before losing to Vidi FC and dropping into the Europa League qualifiers instead. There they beat FC
Michyland Midtjylland to qualify for the group stage, where they pulled off an unexpected second place finish behind Genk but ahead of Besiktas.
The only immediately familiar name in their squad is veteran striker Markus Rosenberg, who played for West Brom in the same season Chelsea last competed in the Europa League, scoring zero Premier League goals in 24 appearances. Midfielder Anders Christiansen has also played against Chelsea once, back when he was playing for FC NorthJellyBelly, also in 2012-13. Christiansen was on the losing end of a 6-1 scoreline on that December day, but Chelsea still dropped out of the Champions League.
Malmö’s (Sky) Blues are coached by former Sky Blue Uwe Rösler, who once held Chelsea to a 2-2 draw as the coach of Brentford back in, you guessed it, 2012-13. So many parallels! Rösler was obviously delighted to see City trounce Chelsea and will be hoping to emulate their and, more pertinently, Bournemouth’s successes against us.
“I don’t think we can take Chelsea on toe-to-toe in an open game. They can make it very difficult for a team like us with their pressing. So it’s important we impress in the right areas, knowing where they will press us and how we can get out of their press. I think we will get opportunities.
”We watched the Bournemouth game [which Chelsea lost 4-0], who play in a similar shape to us. I have seen areas we can cause them problems. The mindset tomorrow is ‘no respect’. We have to play and be aggressive with and without the ball. We have a plan. With a bit of luck and some outstanding performances, we have an outside chance of getting a result.”
-Uwe Rösler; source: Goal
Chelsea team news: Chelsea beat Rösler’s Brentford 4-0 in that FA Cup replay back in 2012-13 but will be hoping that no second leg drama will be necessary this time. A 20-man team touched down yesterday, with newly registered Gonzalo Higuaín ready for action. Ruben Loftus-Cheek (back) and Danny Drinkwater (tendon) miss out due to injury while Marcos Alonso was left back as well after performing his left back job so poorly on the weekend.
Previously: Since we can’t reset or rage quit the season, the work goes on.