Sports Mole provides team news, predicted lineups and a full preview of Thursday’s Europa League clash between Videoton and Chelsea.
Chelsea have made the trip to Hungary to face Videoton having already wrapped up their progress to the last 32 of the Europa League as winners of Group L, but Maurizio Sarri will be keen to maintain the club’s 100% record.
Videoton host the Premier League side at the Groupama Arena in third position, but a draw or win may be enough to earn their place in the knockout stages of the competition.
Videoton only narrowly missed out on qualifying for the group stages of the Champions League in August, but that did not stop the Hungarian side being regarded as the minnows of this group.
However, Marko Nikolic‘s side have done themselves justice in a competitive trio below Chelsea, and they will still be confident of gaining a place in the last 32 despite only winning two of their five matches.
Videoton will need to record at least a point against one of the favourites for the trophy to maintain their hopes of participating in the knockout stages, but Nikolic will take belief from the performances of his team since the middle of September.
Just three goals have been scored form five outings, but Nikolic will be more encouraged that just five have been conceded during that same period and that Chelsea struggled to break down his team’s backline in the reverse fixture at Stamford Bridge.
Vidi have not found themselves involved in any classic contests in European competition this season with each of their 13 matches not featuring any more than three goals, but that may play into their favour on Thursday.
Nikolic’s side currently sit in second place in their domestic standings, but two defeats have been suffered in their last five matches to leave the club eight points adrift of leaders Ferencvaros.
That form is not ideal heading into a showdown with Chelsea but if veteran Roland Juhasz can ensure that the backline remains compact, there may be opportunities to catch Chelsea on the break.
Vidi have not always performed well in front of their own supporters in Europe since August, but this is one of the biggest games in the club’s recent history and Nikolic will expect a strong outing from his squad.
Recent form: LLWWL
Recent form (all competitions): WWLWWL
Sarri has used the group stages to give minutes to a number of his squad players, but the Italian will be delighted with how his team have managed to negotiate the first hurdle of a potential significant run in this competition.
All but two of Chelsea’s goals have come in their three fixtures at Stamford Bridge, but Sarri will be satisfied with the job which has been done both home and away and it provides him with the leeway to rest his star men for this game.
The Blues head coach will still to proceed to select players who need more minutes on the pitch ahead of a hectic period, but Chelsea supporters will be eager to see the likes of Ethan Ampadu and Callum Hudson-Odoi start in Hungary.
The pair have played just 153 minutes between them over the opening five games but barring any fitness issues, the two youngsters should both be given the opportunity to impress on Thursday evening.
Sarri may also use the game to give some of his fringe players a chance to put themselves in the shop window ahead of a potential January exit, with Gary Cahill, Davide Zappacosta and Victor Moses all falling into that bracket.
The likes of Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Olivier Giroud will be keen to feature for the right reasons, however, with the duo having contributed three goals apiece to sit in a tie for sixth place in the top scorers charts.
Sarri will have been impressed with the defensive side of Chelsea’s game, with just one goal being conceded in their opening five games in this competition.
Two clean sheets have also been kept on their trips to PAOK and BATE Borisov, and Sarri will want that to become three in three given his team’s recent struggles away from home in the Premier League.
Recent form: WWWWW
Recent form (all competitions): DLWWLW
Alvaro Morata may get the nod over Giroud having not play any part in the 18-man squad for the game against Manchester City last weekend.
Nikolic will consider making changes to his team after their defeat to Ujpest at the weekend, with Istvan Kovacs a potential inclusion in midfield.
Marko Scepovic should get the nod in attack despite failing to score a single goal in Europe this season.
Videoton possible starting lineup:
Kovacsik; Fiola, Juhasz, Vinicius, Stopira; Nego, Kovacs, Patkai; Huszti, Milanov; Scepovic
Chelsea possible starting lineup:
Caballero; Zappacosta, Christensen, Cahill, Emerson; Ampadu, Fabregas, Barkley; Pedro, Morata, Hudson-Odoi
Head To Head
Thursday’s game will represent just the second competitive meeting between the two clubs, with their only other contest coming earlier in this competition.
Chelsea will also be making their first-ever trip to Hungary to take on a team from the Nemzeti Bajnoksag I.
Videoton are also not familiar with facing English teams, with their only previous tie coming in 1985 when they got the better of Manchester United in the UEFA Cup quarter-finals.
We say: Videoton 1-3 Chelsea
Sarri will almost definitely ring the changes for the closing fixture of the group stages, but we still expect the Blues to win in style. Players will be keen to make an impression ahead of the Christmas period, and this should lead to a professional display from the English side.