Sports Mole brings you predicted lineups, team news and a full match preview of Chelsea’s Europa League clash against Belarusian champions BATE Borisov.
The Blues have won two from two in Group L and can all but confirm a place in the knockout rounds with time to spare should they see off the Belarusian champions.
Maurizio Sarri has surprised many by naming strong starting lineups for both European outings thus far, although even with his star names on the field Chelsea still struggled to break down Videoton three weeks ago.
The Hungarian minnows so nearly held on for the unlikeliest of points, only for Alvaro Morata to flick the ball home with less than a quarter of the match remaining to end his personal barren run in front of goal.
Chelsea know that they will have the luxury of being able to put the Europa League to one side should results go their way this week, as they boast a three-point lead on PAOK and BATE, while Vidi are six points worse off.
That narrow victory over Vidi ended a run of three successive European home draws for the Blues, who are unbeaten at Stamford Bridge in the Champions League and Europa League since September 2013 – a run spanning 12 matches.
Nine of those games have ended in victory, including wins by the same 3-1 scoreline in all three of their knockout round fixtures during their only previous participation in this competition five years ago.
Chelsea went all the way that year under the watch of Rafael Benitez, culminating in a 2-1 win over Benfica in Amsterdam, but never before have they had to battle through the group phase of UEFA’s secondary competition.
The added workload has not affected Sarri’s men so far, as they remain well in the Premier League title race and are also through to the fourth round of the EFL Cup, leaving the Blues on course for silverware in the Italian’s first campaign at the helm.
Recent form in Europa League: WW
Recent form (all competitions): DWDWWD
The Belarussian champions will therefore be targeting at least a point from their double-header against the Blues to ensure that their return meetings with PAOK and Vidi have something riding on them.
Victory over Vidi in Hungary ended a four match winless run for Borisov in terms of away wins in the Europa League group stage, leaving them with a pretty mixed return of three wins, three draws and four defeats from such fixtures.
One of those losses came up the road at Arsenal in last season’s competition, as the Gunners inflicted BATE’s heaviest ever European away loss when putting six unanswered goals past them at the Emirates Stadium – Olivier Giroud, now at Chelsea after swapping clubs in January, among the goalscorers that night.
BATE’s only other visit to England came in 2009 when beating Everton 1-0 at Goodison Park in a group match, but that was not enough to stop them from crashing out at the first hurdle.
That may well be the case this time around, too, though Alyaksey Baha‘s charges do at least remain on course for silverware in their domestic league, leading Shakhtyor by nine points with six game left to play.
Borisov, 12-time champions of Belarus, could therefore wrap up the title in the coming weeks, providing a welcome boost ahead of some key European fixtures – starting with this trip to the English capital
Recent form in Europa League: WL
Recent form (all competitions): WWWLLW
Youngsters Ethan Ampadu, Isaiah Brown and Callum Hudson-Odoi are also carrying knocks and will not be involved, but Ruben Loftus-Cheek has recovered from injury and could make his first appearance since October 4.
Jasse Tuominen started the win against Vidi and defeat to PAOK, and Baha is unlikely to tinker for this toughest group clash of the lot.
Chelsea possible starting lineup:
Kepa; Zappacosta, Cahill, Christensen, Emerson; Loftus-Cheek, Fabregas, Barkley; Pedro, Giroud, Willian
BATE Borisov possible starting lineup:
Scherbitski; Polyakov, Milunovic, Filipenko, Volodko; Ivanic, Dragun, Yablonski, Baga, Stasevich; Tuominen
Head To Head
Chelsea and BATE have never previously met in UEFA competition. Indeed, the Blues have never faced any opponent from Belarus.
Borisov beat Everton 1-0 at Goodison Park in that aforementioned group match nine years ago and lost 2-1 in the reverse match.
They fared a lot worse against Arsenal, meanwhile, conceding a combined 10 goals in last season’s two group matches.
We say: Chelsea 2-0 BATE Borisov
Chelsea have been efficient in their European matches so far this season, winning both games by a one-goal margin, and this match may well prove to be another grind for Sarri’s men. BATE are tougher opposition than Vidi, who did well to restrict the Blues a few weeks back, but the hosts should still be able to get the job done.