It’s another early kick-off for Chelsea in this year’s Champions League group stage campaign, for no apparent or obvious reason. Two of our three away games will have now kicked off in the early timeslot despite not once leaving the Central European time zone. UEFA just trying to keep us on our toes I guess!
Not that we should need any extra motivation or impetus. Top spot in the group is on the line, with the winner of this game also guaranteed to advance to the Round of 16, perhaps even as group winners. In our case it would also make the last game, at home against Dinamo Zagreb, a formality, which would be helpful in our attempts to limp across the finishing line for the World Cup break — especially in the sense of injuries and fitness, as well as results — with the prospect of having to face Arsenal (league) and Manchester City (League Cup) before then.
There is of course danger also inherent in looking too far forward, so let’s focus on the task at hand, victory in the land of the Red Bull! (Incidentally, Red Bull co-founder Dietrich Mateschitz passed away this weekend at the age of 78, following a long illness. May he rest in non-caffeinated peace.)
Date / Time: Tuesday, October 25, 2022, 17.45 BST; 12:45pm EDT; 10:15pm IST
Venue: Red Bull Arena, Salzburg, Austria
Referee: Sandro Schärer (on pitch); Fedayi San (VAR)
Forecast: Cool evening after a warm day
On TV: BT Sport 4 (UK); UniMás, TUDN (USA); Sony TEN 2 (India); SuperSport Football Plus, (NGA); elsewhere
Streaming: BT Sport Live (UK); Paramount+, Univision Now (USA); Sony LIV (India); DStv Now (NGA)
RB Salzburg team news: Salzburg’s draw at the Bridge, in Graham Potter’s first game in charge, was seen as a disappointing result for us, but the Austrian champions have put together a solid campaign to sit second in the group heading into the final two games. They’ve also drawn against AC Milan (home) and Dinamo Zagreb (away), while beating the latter 1-0 at home. Not exactly earth-shattering, but certainly good enough — and their home record in all competitions is quite spectacular, having not lost in some 20 months, since Villarreal passed through here in February 2021 on their way to winning the Europa League that year (and then losing to Chelsea in the 2021 UEFA Super Cup).
Salzburg, like Chelsea, are dealing with a few injury issues. Midfielder Nicolas Capaldo and forwards Fernando and Sékou Koïta are out, while the likes of Andreas Ulmer, Oumar Solet, Bernardo, and Luka Sučić are doubtful. Capaldo, Ulmer, Bernardo, and Sučić all started at Stamford Bridge, while Koïta made a late cameo, replacing their goalscorer, Noah Okafor. Okafor has 3 of Salzburg’s 4 goals in fact, with Nicolas Seiwald adding the other. Strikers Benjamin Šeško and Junior Adamu remain scoreless in Europe but they do have 10 goals combined in the league.
Chelsea team news: A slightly reduced squad of just 21 traveled to Salzburg yesterday, with Kalidou Koulibaly staying behind, alongside long-term absentees Reece James, N’Golo Kanté, and Wesley Fofana. Koulibaly’s knee injury continues be portrayed as a minor concern, but it’ll be two games now that he will have missed completely.
More minor minor-concers include Mateo Kovačić’s knee, Ben Chilwell’s knee, Thiago Silva’s hamstring, and Marc Cucurella’s illness, but all four should be good to go if called upon.
After winning five in a row in all competitions, Chelsea have settled for draws in our last two games. On Saturday, Manchester United’s equalizer not only broke our hearts but it also broke our six-hour clean sheet streak. Time to start a new one! And as we do, we can always hope that the attack sorts itself out a bit in the meantime.
Previously: 1-1 at the Bridge in the first ever competitive meeting between these two sides.