Champions League Preview – Final Group Games
It’s a night of two halves in Wednesday’s last round of group stage games – while Chelsea are already doing their homework on potential opponents in the round of 16, Arsenal have it all to do as they face Partizan Belgrade at the Emirates Stadium.
In winning Group F with a game left to play, you’d think that Chelsea could afford to rest on their laurels for 90 minutes, with only a trip to southern France remaining in their immediate European schedule. It’s an excellent opportunity for Chelsea captain John Terry to make his return; a low-stakes, low-pressure game ought to serve as just the right occasion for the returning centre-half.
Their two consecutive Premier League draws have drawn some criticism for the Blues, but with a crunch match against Tottenham looming they’ll be desperate to prove their mettle, as well as to complete their perfect record in this season’s Champions League.
Conversely, Arsenal have it all to do. Only a win against Partizan Belgrade will guarantee safe passage to the next round – and with a 3-1 win in the reverse fixture still fresh in their minds, they’ll be confident of a win on home soil.
This, however, will have to be done without the services of Cesc Fabregas (hamstring), Thomas Vermaelen (Achilles), Abou Diaby (ankle) and Manuel Almunia (elbow); all key players in the campaign so far. Arsenal must at least match the result set by Braga, as the Gunners’ superior goal difference ought to settle matters outside of points gained. Laurent Koscielny has been given the all-clear to play as his head injury has cleared up, while they’ll also welcome back Emmanuel Eboue from a cautionary absence.
Bottom of the group Partizan are 29-1 with Unibet to record a famous victory in London, while Chelsea look a more appealing prospect to lift the Champions League trophy at 5-1 with Extrabet.