Chelsea can reach the UEFA Champions League knockout stages for the 13th time in the last 15 seasons with a win on Wednesday.
Standing in their way is Qarabag FK from Azerbaijan, who are currently in their maiden UEFA Champions League campaign.
The Horsemen faced a reality check in their first ever group stage match, when they suffered a 6-0 thrashing at Stamford Bridge at the hands of the current English Premier League champions. It is to date the only ever meeting between the two sides; Gurban Gurbanov’s men will be hoping that history does not repeat itself at the Tofiq Bahramov Republican Stadium on Wednesday.
Since their previous meeting took place in September, the two sides’ UEFA Champions League form has differed. Chelsea recorded a famous victory in Madrid against Atletico, before failing to defeat AS Roma in each of their two meetings. Meanwhile, Qarabag fell to a narrow defeat at home to Roma, before recording two impressive draws against Atletico.
As it currently stands in Group C, Chelsea are in second place, a point behind Roma and four ahead of Atletico. Qarabag are bottom of the group; mathematically they can still progress into the knockout stages, but in order to do so they must win their final two group games against Chelsea and Roma, whilst hoping that Atletico beat Roma and draw against Chelsea. A more realistic target for them would be to reach third place which would send them into the Round of 32 in the UEFA Europa League.
With this match being crucial for Chelsea, manager Antonio Conte is expected to name a strong team on Wednesday, which will not make things any easier for Qarabag.
The Azerbaijani side have proved that it is difficult to play them in their home nation; Chelsea are going to have to grind the result out in the same way that they did in Madrid.
Score Prediction: Qarabag FK 1-3 Chelsea
By Jonty Colman