Chelsea counting on away form
Chelsea can wrap up a spot in the knockout phase of the UEFA Champions League for a seventh straight season with a win over Bordeaux on Wednesday. But the hosts will go into the match knowing Luis Felipe's Scolari's men have been spluttering of late, and a win at their compact Chaban-Delmas stadium would turn Group A on its head.
Bordeaux go into the tie on six points, just behind AS Roma on goal difference and a point behind the west Londoners, while outsiders CFR Cluj of Romania are also still in the hunt and kick off at home against the Italians with four points.
In the very likely scenario that the group will go down the final match, Chelsea host Cluj while Bordeaux travel to the Italian capital on 9 December.
A quick look at the respective seasons so far of Chelsea and Bordeaux would explain why Scolari's expensively-assembled side of internationals go into the match as odds-on favourites. Chelsea have a domestic record of ten wins, four draws and one defeat with a goal difference of +28 as they top the table in England, while Bordeaux are currently sixth in France with a modest record of seven wins, four draws and four defeats and a goal difference of +8.
However, Girodins coach Laurent Blanc can call on his English experience from his time at Manchester United as a foundation, and he is also certain to remind his players that Chelsea have already been beaten three times in all competitions this campaign. The Blues suffered unexpected defeats in the Champions League away to Roma, and in the League Cup when they were ousted by second division Burnley. The third defeat was against bogey side Liverpool who ended their 75-match unbeaten record at Stamford Bridge back on 26 October.
Both sides are coming off home draws at the weekend: Newcastle held Chelsea to a 0-0 draw in London, while Bordeaux's golden boy Yoann Gourcuff rescued a point at home against Brittany outfit Rennes in a match that finished 1-1. It was a result that lifted the spirits of Blanc's men after losing 2-1 in their last outing at champions Lyon.
"Two straight defeats would have been tough before hosting Chelsea, and the Rennes result is good for morale," said Gourcuff, who is on loan from AC Milan.
The French runners-up from last season will also welcome back former French international goalkeeper Ulrich Rame who appears to have shaken off a stomach muscle injury. "It was too soon to play against Rennes but I hope to be ready for Chelsea," he said.
Scolari, meanwhile, has admitted he has to change his strategy to overcome the defensive tactics of clubs that come to Stamford Bridge, but will take heart from his side's scintillating form away from home, where they have won a Premier League record ten straight wins, including seven from seven this season. "It is easier for us to win away from home," said Scolari. "We will go to Bordeaux for the victory, and we need a win in France to qualify for the next round.
Chelsea also have to improve on their whipping in Rome if they hope to repeat last season's achievement of reaching the Champions League final. "," admitted captain John Terry in reference to the Rome reverse.
Chelsea will qualify with a victory, while Bordeaux need a point or a win to keep alive their chances of going into the final match at Rome with a chance of reaching the knockout phase for the first time.