Krasnodar v Chelsea, Wednesday, 5:55pm
It’s a European midweek adventure, and you know what that means – a geography lesson as British clubs make their way through the continent, only to get lost because their coach driver is as reliant on Google Maps as any of us would be.
Chelsea going to Russia shouldn’t exactly be a big deal. They probably get better hospitality in Krasnodar Krai than when they ship off to Burnley, especially given big Roman probably pumps oil into every village within a 200-mile radius.
Krasnodar, for those who don’t know (everyone), is a small city by Russian standards and is closer to Istanbul than it is to Moscow. Its geography, both physical and cultural, more closely resembles Georgia than anything else.
And for all open space and alarming lack of defensive positions, the Blues probably still won’t score.
That’s a tad unfair, of course. It’s either been feast or famine for Lamps’ Lads to date, and while everyone thought the thumping of Palace was a turning point, and netting three against Southampton meant the floodgates opening at last, it hasn’t materialised.
Blanks against Sevilla and Man United spell surreal danger for Lampard, and it wouldn’t take much for his boss to pop down and hand him his notice, would it?
Here’s three of the best.
Under 2.5 Goals
The logic for this is two-pronged. Firstly, Krasnodar, for all that their opening day point against Rennes was credible, are hampered by injury. They’ve also, like most clubs seem to have at this point, got some absentees due to the coronavirus.
You’d suspect they’d have a go at Chelsea if they were at full strength, but that won’t be the case. For that reason, they’ll likely look to sit in and give an English club an easy time of it in Russia for a change.
Chelsea, meanwhile, will likely be fielding a very different XI to the one we’re used to seeing in league games. Now, I’m not suggesting that everything will change, but both Timo Wener and Kai Havertz have been ever-present so far, and there’s no point risking injury over here.
They’re central to Chelsea’s play, so don’t be surprised to see the shakeup take some time to find its feet.
Hakim Ziyech to Score Anytime
Among those likely drafted into first team duties from the off is Hakim Ziyech. For all the money Chelsea spent in the offseason, I think this was potentially their biggest move.
Ziyech offers more technical ability than Havertz and Werner combined, and he gives them genuine width, something they really lack since sending Willian off to Arsenal.
He’s a decent price to grab a goal, given the opposition and the likely flow of the game. He’s also well-rested, unlike almost every other top-end player in Europe.
Look, at least it’s not an international break.
Chelsea to Win to Nil
They’ve taken back to back clean sheets, so it’s hardly a massive stretch to say I fancy them here, and yet it feels like it is.
But the truth is, this is the list of absentees for the Russian outfit: Remy Cabella, Evgeniy Markov, Ruslan Kambolov, Aleskandr Cherkinov, Sergey Petrov and Dmitri Stotskiy.
Expect a similar showing to the one that saw them hammered by Spartak at the weekend.
*All prices correct at time of first publishing but may change. They’ll always be bang up to date on our snazzy widgets, though
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