Captain John Terry will be back to plug Chelsea’s porous rearguard on Wednesday when the holders bid to avenge last month’s defeat by Shakhtar Donetsk and wrest back control of Champions League Group E.
The Londoners shipped 10 goals in the four games that centre half Terry missed after he was suspended for racially abusing Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand. “John is an important player for us for sure and a fantastic defender and when he plays he always does very well,” coach Roberto Di Matteo told reporters last week.
“The other players have done fantastic jobs when they have come in but certainly JT is a player that we miss.”
Terry and his fellow defenders will need to be at their best against a classy Shakhtar side who gave Chelsea the run-around for long spells to win 2-1 in Ukraine two weeks ago.
Di Matteo’s team started the season in sparkling fashion, winning seven of their opening eight games in the Premier League, but confidence has taken a knock since the defeat in Shakhtar.
Chelsea went down 3-2 at home to Manchester United five days later before turning the tables by winning 5-4 in a League Cup thriller. Di Matteo was then without Terry, Frank Lampard, David Luiz and Juan Mata for last Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Swansea City that meant Chelsea were knocked off the top of the Premier League table by United.
Chelsea are three points behind the Ukrainians at the top of the group and, with a tricky visit to third-placed Juventus to come later this month, they need a victory on Wednesday.
Braga in United’s way
Braga, Portugal: Five points clear at the top of Group H, Manchest-er United can wrap up their spot in the knockout phase on Wedne-sday if they can take maximum points off Portugese side Braga.
It will be no walk in the park, though, given Braga’s home record against English opponents. In four home matches over the past five years, Braga have yet to concede a goal against English opponents and have chalked up an impressive list of scalps that include Liverpool, Arsenal, Birmingham City and Portsmou-th. The hosts also showed they were no pushovers last month when they led United 2-0 before losing 3-2 at Old Trafford.
While automatic qualification is the principal objective, winning the group will mean United play a second-placed team in the second round and also have the return leg at home.
Barca almost there
London: Barcelona’s early season form has been on a par with their habitually high standards but as they prepare to visit Celtic in the Champions League, there remai-ns a question mark hanging over their makeshift defence. One mo-re win in Group G on Wednesday would see the Catalans into the knockout stages but fans worry whether a back four that has an increasingly stand-in look about it can win a fifth European Cup.
Bayern in good form
Berlin: Bayern Munich are brimming with confidence ahead of Group F clash at home to France’s Lille with president Uli Hoeness labelling their current form as ‘football art’.
Bayern, eager to take a decisive step towards the round of 16, eased past hosts Hamburg SV 3-0 in the Bundesliga on Saturday to notch their ninth league win in 10 games, bouncing back from their first defeat a week earlier.
They also saw the return of Franck Ribery after a 10-day absence With fellow winger Arjen Robben fully fit after coming back from a month out injured in their German Cup second round game last week and left back David Alaba back to his best after his own three-month injury break, the Bavarians are in good shape.