Chelsea will be looking to secure the top spot in Group H of the UEFA Champions League as they travel to take on Zenit St. Petersburg. The Russian side made life difficult for Chelsea when they visited Stamford Bridge in their opening Group H game. Romelu Lukaku scored the winner for the Blues, but it could easily have been a very frustrating night for Thomas Tuchel’s men.
Zenit St. Petersburg played out a 1-1 draw in their latest Champions League outing to ensure they’re going straight to the UEFA Europa League after the group stages. The Russian side are getting eliminated in the group stage of the Champions League for the third successive time. Zenit are currently unbeaten in their last five games across all competitions. They registered a 2-0 win over CSKA Moscow before settling for a 2-2 draw with FC Rostov in their latest Russian Premier League encounters.
The above visual shows us the xT creation zones for Zenit from their previous Champions League clash against Malmo. The Russian side were more threatening when they attacked from the right flank, and a few of their players did generate a high xT from the passes they attempted. Although Zenit dominated possession of the ball and had more attacks on goal, they were only able to rescue a point from a last-minute penalty.
Chelsea have a total of 12 points from their five Group H matches, claiming four victories by an aggregate score of 10-0, with their only loss coming against Juventus in September, when they lost 1-0. The Blues got their revenge against the Italian giants last month, cruising to a 4-0 victory at Stamford Bridge, meaning a win on Wednesday would guarantee their place at the top of the group.
As seen in the above visual, most of the Chelsea players have generated a high xT from the passes and dribbles that they have attempted. Andreas Christensen has generated the highest xT for Chelsea so far from the passes that he has played into the final third. Chelsea will fancy coming back from St. Petersburg with all three points as the Londoners have been the superior side while going forward, and they also have been a very defensively stable unit.
Chelsea have been dominating possession of the ball in most of the games. The Blues have had the highest match tempo in the Champions League as they have completed 19.28 passes per minute of pure possession and also have the highest possession from open play. They are likely to see more of the ball and can control the tempo of the game accordingly.
Chelsea have looked a little shaky in recent weeks. They gave away a one-goal lead to lose 2-3 against London rivals, West Ham United, on Saturday in their latest Premier League game. The Blues were leading 2-1 when the teams went inside for the half-time break, but the Hammers hit back, and Chelsea were simply outplayed in the second 45. Tuchel will be hoping for a response from his men after slipping to third in the Premier League table.
The Blues have dropped to third place in the Premier League standings, two points behind leaders Manchester City, and as eager as they are to return to the top level, their main focus now is on Wednesday’s Champions League group game in Russia.
Zenit St Petersburg predicted starting lineup:
Kerzhakov, Barrios, Lovren, Rakitskyi, Karavaev, Kuzyaev, Wendel, Santos, Malcom, Dzyuba, Claudinho.
Chelsea predicted starting lineup:
Mendy, Christensen, Silva, Rudiger, Azpilicueta, Loftus-Cheek, Saul, James, Mount, Ziyech, Lukaku.