Chelsea’s Champions League journey began with a home win over Zenit St Petersburg and our group stage campaign now ends with an away trip to Zenit’s Krestovsky Stadium. In between, we’ve already ensured a place in the knockout rounds, though whether we do so as top seed or as second place is still to be decided. Since Juventus play whipping boys Malmö FF, we probably have to win to win the group.
Incidentally, this season’s final will be played at the Krestovsky as well, so if we play our cards right, we could come back to this stadium one more time this season! But for now, the focus is on the matter at hand.
Winning the group is usually the more preferrable outcome, though it doesn’t necessarily guarantee an easy (or easier) draw in the Round of 16. The likes of PSG, Inter Milan, or Atlético Madrid might be our reward for doing so, for example — and given the way football loves a narrative, it would most certainly be PSG. But winning is a habit, and after the week that was, it would also be a welcome salve.
Date / Time: Wednesday, December 8, 2021, 17.45 GMT; 12:45pm EST; 11:15pm IST
Venue: Krestovsky Stadium, St Petersburg, Russia
Referee: Serdar Gözübüyük (on pitch); Jochem Kamphuis (VAR) — Dutch refereeing crew, first Chelsea game ever for them
Forecast: Well below freezing arctic cold, like -10ºC (MINUS TEN!)
On TV: BT Sport 2 (UK); TUDN, UniMás (USA); Sony TEN 2 (India); SuperSport MaXimo 1, Canal+ Sport 4 (NGA); elsewhere
Streaming: BT Sport Live (UK); Paramount+, Univision NOW (USA); Sony LIV (India); DStv Now (NGA)
Zenit St Petersburg team news: Since we last saw them, Zenit have continued their charge to a fourth consecutive Russian Premier League title, and currently hold a two-point lead over Dinamo Moscow, whom they play this weekend. The league will go on a two-month break afterwards (since, you know, it’s ridiculously cold), so, like for Chelsea, this game is of a much lower priority — in fact, Zenit are already guaranteed third spot in the group and Europa League football in the spring.
Sergey Semak’s side will be without defender Dmitry Chistyakov, who’s suspended, and first-choice goalkeeper Stanislav Kritsyuk, who’s missed the last month with a knee injury. The veteran Artem Dzyuba leads the team in scoring with 10 goals.
Chelsea team news: A weakened and short-staffed side touched down last night in balmy St Petersburg, with five staying back at Cobham with various ailments. Ben Chilwell, N’Golo Kanté, Trevoh Chalobah, and Jorginho are all injured, though the latter two are expected back soon (Jorginho this weekend, Chalobah the weekend after). Mateo Kovačić should be back by then as well — he had returned to training for a day only to test positive for COVID-19 the following morning. So he’s now isolating.
On the plus side, both Kai Havertz and Marcos Alonso have traveled despite being forced off with knocks against West Ham on Saturday.
The Blues are experiencing a bit of a blip at the moment, perhaps our first significant one under Tuchel, but the bigger concern at the moment are injuries and fatigue. Hopefully this game can help us improve both situations somehow.
Previously: Romelu Lukaku scored the game’s only goal back September.