The next three weeks will see alternating Champions League and Premier League action for Chelsea as we being this season’s pandemic-condensed group stage (in terms of scheduling, not number of games).
First up are the top seeds in the group, Europa League champions Sevilla, who are the only team to have won said competition more times in the last decade than us. Sevilla have won 4 of the last 8, with Chelsea on 2 and Manchester United and Atlético Madrid with one each during that time. (Atléti also won it in 2012 and 2010, but those were before my arbitrary cut-off.)
In any case, starting the campaign against the top dogs of the group isn’t ideal, but a win here would set us up very nicely for the rest of the campaign (Krasnodar away next week, then Rennes at home the week after that). Not winning wouldn’t be a disaster, but we’d probably have to readjust expectations for second place in the group instead, which isn’t ideal.
Date / Time: Tuesday, October 20, 2020, 20.00 BST; 3pm EDT; 12:30am IST (next day)
Venue: Stamford Bridge, SW6
Referee: Davide Massa (ITA; on pitch); Marco Di Bello (ITA; VAR) — first Chelsea match for either
Forecast: Cool and breezy, slight chance of rain
On TV: BT Sport 3 (UK); none (USA); Sony Six (India); SuperSport Variety, Canal+ Sport 3 (NGA); elsewhere
Streaming: BT Sport Live (UK); CBS All Access, TUDNxtra (USA); Sony LIV (India); DStv Now (NGA) — if you’re in the US and you don’t want to subscribe to CBS because you’re not over 60 and/or don’t like Star Trek, you can also watch through Fubo TV, for which we have an affiliate link. That said, CBS does offer a free trial, and they will be carrying the Champions League for the next several years, so you might as well get used to their lack of actual television coverage. (The main CBS channel will be showing daytime soaps and local news, while CBS Sports Network will be showing a “whiparound” NFL Red Zone-style nonsense. Thanks, CBS!)
Chelsea team news: The big news is that Édouard Mendy has been spotted in training and is reportedly in contention to start if he can pass a late fitness test. The new signing suffered a hamstring injury two weeks ago while away on international duty, and the prognosis provided by Frank Lampard on Friday made it sound like he had no chance of playing in this game. But now there is a chance!
We also should be getting Thiago Silva back, after he was held out from Saturday’s disappointing 3-3 draw due to jetlag. Same goes for Mateo Kovačić, who did not make the matchday squad (despite no other actual midfielder available), perhaps due to the birth of first child last week. (Congrats, Kova!)
Regardless of who starts and who plays, all eyes and all the pressure will be on Chelsea not conceding further calamitous goals (or goals of any kind, really). In this case, the lack of fans in the stadium might be a good thing...
Sevilla team news: Having finished fourth in La Liga and won the Europa League (beating Conte’s Inter Milan), Sevilla have gone out and actually spent a fair bit of money this summer to reward head coach Julen Lopetegui, bringing in the likes of Suso from AC Milan, Ivan Rakitić from Barcelona, Óscar Rodríguez from Real Madrid, Oussama Idrissi from Eredivisie runners-up, AZ, Argentina international Marcos Acuña from Sporting CP, and a couple others. All told, they spent over €50m net in the transfer window, which would be a decent amount for any La Liga team not named Barcelona or Something Madrid in a normal year, let alone during a pandemic.
Meanwhile, their only two departures of note have been Simon Kjær (to AC Milan) and Éver Banega choosing to retire in Saudi Arabia for one last big payday. Goalkeeper Sergio Rico also joined PSG officially, but he had been on loan there last season already.
So, basically, Sevilla are just as good as last year, if not better.
That said, like Chelsea, they will be looking for a better return on investment than mid-table. Just 2 wins from the first four games, including a 1-0 loss to Granada (feat. Chelsea loanee Kenedy!) over the weekend isn’t too great, although their other non-win was a 1-1 draw against Barcelona, which ain’t half bad.
So yeah, they’re pretty, pretty, pretty good.
Previously: Chelsea have never played Sevilla, so let’s watch some training clips instead (UEFA still doing the 15 minutes of mandatory open training, which is cool).