Valencia host Chelsea on Wednesday evening in a crunch clash in Group H, with three sides sat on seven points heading into the fifth round of fixtures.
Valencia v Chelsea – Champions League Group H
Kick Off: 17:55
TV Channel: BT Sport
The make up of Group H makes this an enthralling encounter, with Frank Lampard’s side heading to the Mestalla knowing a point will leave qualification in their own hands heading into the last round of fixtures. Ajax sit top on goal difference, whilst Valencia are a goal behind Chelsea with an identical goal difference, so this result will be key to shaping the destiny of the group.
Valencia sit 10th in La Liga, and are in the midst of an injury crises. Defeat to Real Betis on the weekend was disappointing, as Sergio Canales netted a 93rd minute winner against Albert Celades’ side. The game showed how Valencia have looked to set up tactically in recent weeks, as they conceded possession to Betis for long periods, with just 39% to show for themselves, before looking to utilise their attacking talents on the counter attack. They performed a smash-and-grab victory at Stamford Bridge in September in a game Chelsea dominated, and it would be no surprise to see the Spanish side opt for a similar approach against the free-scoring Londoners.
Chelsea come into the game on the back of a defeat at Manchester City, but Lampard’s side can take pride from this performance, as silly mistakes let Chelsea down when they were otherwise in control after N’Golo Kante’s opener. The return of the Frenchman to Chelsea’s midfield was particularly impressive, and he will be expected to start once again in Spain, and his energy and creativity from midfield will be key to Chelsea’s chances.
Tammy Abraham remains in red hot scoring form, whilst Christian Pulisic has seen his form pick up in recent weeks. Chelsea look well suited to challenge the Spanish giants, and may need to be patient to break down the Spanish side. Lampard will be confident of picking up at least a point away at Valencia, especially with the Spanish sides injury worries.
Valencia possess a hefty injury list ahead of the visit of Chelsea. Cristiano Piccini, Goncalo Guedes, Geoffrey Kondogbia, Francis Coquelin, Denis Cheryshev, Mouctar Diakhaby and Ruben Sobrino are all expected to miss out.
Callum Hudson-Odoi is expected to miss the trip to Spain with a hamstring injury, whilst Antonio Rudiger remains out. Ross Barkley remains a doubt.
Head to Head:
Valencia Wins – 1
Draws – 3
Chelsea Wins – 3
Five of Chelsea’s last six games have seen both teams score
Valencia also have an identical record over the last six games
Discipline has been an issue for Valencia this season, with 29 yellow cards and three reds in 14 La Liga games
Valencia Last 5: D W W W L
Chelsea Last 5: L W D W L
When factoring in Chelsea’s impressive domestic form and the returning influence of N’Golo Kante, it is hard to see past Chelsea at 11/10. Otherwise in control against Manchester City, it was the high pressing nature of City that caused Chelsea problems, and I don’t expect to see a similar threat from Valencia on Wednesday night. Chelsea deserved to win comfortably at home against Valencia, but were undone by the smash-and-grab Rodrigo winner, coupled with Ross Barkley’s penalty miss.
Chelsea may need to be patient in Spain, and it would be no surprise to see a tight, cagey affair for the majority of the game. If it was to play out this way, I’d avoid the goal markets, and instead be tempted by Draw HT/Chelsea FT at 19/4.