Chelsea start their Champions League campaign off tonight with a home tie against Basel. This is the first group match of the tournament and it is at Stamford Bridge, kick off 19.45 GMT.
In a strange twist of fate, Chelsea played Basel last year in the Europa League and won over the two legs by 5-2. Of course, that does not mean that will happen this this year as both teams have undergone many changes since then, mainly Chelsea though with new manager Jose Mourinho at the helm for a second time.
It should be remembered that last season, Chelsea appointed Rafael Benitez as `interim` manager until the end of the season; a move which triggered mass protests from fans because of the past history between Chelsea and Liverpool when Benitez was manager there. Ironically, Benitez`s reign coincided with their best results of the season, ultimately winning the Europa Cup and finishing in the top four and gaining Champions league football this season, when it looked a forlorn hope before his appointment.
For those reasons, we should maybe take last season`s results against Basel with a pinch of salt, as this season Chelsea look anything but world-beaters. Their first Premier League matches have been bore fests and scraping draws along the way does not bode well for the rest of the season.
For unknown reasons, Chelsea has made it clear that they will not be making more mega signings and want to develop their own younger players through the academy. However, regardless of their posturing, they did try to sign Wayne Rooney and it became an obsession with Mourinho to the point that he did not want to sign anybody else. He truly thought that the lure of his presence would entice Rooney to Stamford Bridge. Unfortunately he was sadly mistaken and whilst Chelsea were staggering to a boring loss at Everton Rooney was busy blowing kisses to the Manchester United fans after his wonder free kick goal won their match against Crystal Palace.
Chelsea eventually signed clapped out Samuel Eto`o from Anzi for a small fee presumably instead of Rooney! Mourinho can dress this up however he wants, but it was a real snub for him to fail with the Rooney bid and ending up with a has been in the shape of Eto`o will come back to haunt him this season staring with tonight against Basel.
Do not let anybody tell you that this will be some stroll in the park. They may well win the match, but they will not do it comfortably and I predict a single gaol will be all that separates the two clubs when they return to Basel for the return leg later this year.
Eto`o was dreadful in his first games for Chelsea and looked unfit, overweight and lacking that pace he was renowned for in the past. Even lumbering fullbacks were running past him as though he was running in treacle!
That does not bode well for tonight as Basel is a pacey team who will counter attack. As I said, I expect a 1-0 win for Chelsea but I am not at all confident about them winning this easy group.