Having been denied a chance to participate in the (inaugural) European Cup by The Football League in 1955, Chelsea had to wait another 44 long years to make our debut in Europe’s premier competition. Our first ever opponents in the Champions League? AC Milan of course, on September 15, 1999, at Stamford Bridge. Twenty-three years later, the Rossoneri are finally back in town!
Incidentally, Chelsea are in the midst of our worst start to a Champions League group stage campaign since that same inaugural journey 23 years ago, having collected just one point from our opening two games. In 1999, we would turn things around, win three of the last four and even win the group — which back then was the “first” group stage; we would finish second in the “second” group stage and then lose to Barcelona in the quarterfinals.
A similar turnaround is needed now. This game may not be a must-win in the strictest mathematical sense, but it is a must-win in just about every other competitive and sporting sense. It’s a bit weird to be almost halfway through the group stage and talking about must-wins in early October, but that’s the compressed schedule for ya! Must win!
Date / Time: Wednesday, October 5, 2022, 20.00 BST; 3pm EDT; 12:30am IST (next day)
Venue: Stamford Bridge, SW6
Referee: Danny Makkelie (on pitch); Dennis Higler (VAR)
Forecast: The rain might stop by then
On TV: BT Sport 2 (UK); none (USA); Sony TEN 2 (India); SuperSport Football Plus (NGA); elsewhere
Streaming: BT Sport Live (UK); Paramount+, ViX+ (USA); Sony LIV (India); DStv Now (NGA)
Chelsea team news: N’Golo Kanté remains out, while the likes of Jorginho, Kai Havertz, and Édouard Mendy are various degrees of questionable, albeit all fairly small degrees. Marc Cucurella should be back fully fit.
Graham Potter got his first win as Chelsea head coach on Saturday thanks to Conor Gallagher’s glorious last-minute winner at Crystal Palace. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang started Chelsea’s comeback in that game with his first ever goal for the club as well. So there’s some good vibes and confidence as we take on the Italian champions.
AC Milan team news: Familiar faces Fikayo Tomori and Olivier Giroud return to the Bridge — we wish them zero luck during these 90 minutes. Chelsea loanee Tiémoué Bakayoko would also be available were he registered to play in this competition, but he wasn’t, so he isn’t. (He’s yet to play a single minute for Stefano Pioli this season in fact).
Milan do have a whopping thirteen (13!) List B players (i.e homegrown under-21) registered for this fixture thanks to a growing injury crisis among their ranks. First-choice goalkeeper Mike Maignan, first-choice left back Theo Hernández, and first-choice right back Davide Calabria are all out, as are veterans Simon Kjær and Zlatan Ibrahimović. Alexis Saelemaekers tore his MCL over the weekend while Alessandro Florenzi is recovering from meniscus surgery. Another winger, Junior Messias, is also out.
While their depth may thus be tested in the long run, with a defense anchored by Tomori, the midfield control of Sandro Tonali and Ismaël Bennacer, and an attack featuring Giroud (5 goals) and the wonderful Rafael Leão (4 goals), they are more than capable of putting the hurt on the Blues today.
View from the enemy: AC Milan Offside
Previously: Both of our meetings in 1999 ended in draws, 0-0 at the Bridge and 1-1 at the San Siro, Olivier Bierhoff and Dennis Wise scoring within minutes of each other late in the second half — the latter a truly [FUNNING] great goal, as the song goes.