Among the more enjoyable things you could be doing this evening rather than suffer seeing Chelsea play in the Champions League: watch a wall of magnolia paint drying; have all your teeth pulled out without anaesthetic; stay in and copy from the Oxford Dictionary. The list is endless. The good news is that while this game is being shown live on Sky Sports 2, there is a choice of seven other far more interesting games to be screened on Sky Sports 4, including Dortmund v Arsenal, Porto v Shakhtar, Olympiakos v Marseille and Barcelona v Milan.
Champions League group games are rarely exciting affairs, particularly at this stage of the competition (to be fair games featuring the Blues are not the only uninteresting ones) and Chelsea boss Andre Villas-Boas has signalled he has at least one eye on the more important clash against Manchester United on Sunday. The Blues have been far from impressive this season but have crept up the league table relatively unnoticed, with the Manchester clubs grabbing all the early headlines. Bayer Leverkusen have also made a steady start to the season and are unbeaten in four league games after losing their opening Bundesliga fixture against Mainz.
Michael Ballack returns to Stamford Bridge tonight for the first time since departing Chelsea last summer and is looking forward to a “special match”. Bayer coach Robin Dutt will be unable to call upon Tranquillo Barnetta and Bastian Oczipka although Lars Bender could feature despite suffering knee problems recently. Dutt will also be forced to deploy third choice goalkeeper Bernd Leno with Rene Adler unavailable after having knee surgery in July and Fabian Giefer yet to recover from concussion.
Chelsea will be without Ramires (suspended), Michael Essien and Didier Drogba (both injured), while Ryan Bertrand and Romelu Lukaku are ineligible. With United in mind, Villas-Boas is reportedly considering resting John Terry, Frank Lampard and Nicolas Anelka, with David Luiz and Jon Obi Mikel in contention to start tonight’s game. After being dropped for the weekend’s game at the Stadium of Light, Fernando Torres could be restored to the Chelsea starting line-up.
With Stefan Kiessling expected to lead the line as a lone front man for Bayer, don’t expect the Germans to show much ambition tonight. Teams like Chelsea and Manchester United just go through the motions in the group stages so it would be unwise to expect an exciting game or many goals. Especially if Torres is playing. If you were planning on watching this one, don’t bother.
Prediction: Chelsea 1-0 Bayer Leverkusen
Chelsea won’t show much quality nor will Bayer show much ambition. Most libraries enjoy a more raucous atmosphere than match day at Stamford Bridge.