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Chelsea - Maccabi Tel Aviv Preview: Champions League football returns

Chelsea kicks off its Champions League campaign with an opening fixture against Maccabi Tel Aviv on Wednesday evening.  Jose Mourinho a...

Chelsea kicks off its Champions League campaign with an opening fixture against Maccabi Tel Aviv on Wednesday evening. 

Jose Mourinho and his men find themselves in serious trouble at this early stage of the season, falling to a 3-1 defeat on the road at Everton on Saturday.

Chelsea desperately needs to shake off its Premier League hangover and opening its European account with a win could be a small step towards salvaging something from a horror start to the 2015-16 campaign.
Slavisa Jokanovic, a former Blue, returns to Stamford Bridge with his side on a run that could see them snatch an early scalp in Group E. The Israeli visitors, who defeated FC Basel on away goals to progress to the Champions League group stages, dropped their first points of the league season against Ironi Kiryat Shmona last weekend.

Maccabi Tel Aviv has not appeared in Europe’s elite competition since 11 years ago, when it was grouped with Bayern Munich, Juventus and Ajax. The path to the knockout stage is somewhat less daunting this time around with FC Porto, Dynamo Kyiv and Chelsea to contend with.

Chelsea Form

(L) Everton 3-1 Chelsea (Premier League, September 2015)
(L) Chelsea 1-2 Chelsea (Premier League, August 2015)
(W) West Bromwich Albion 2-3 Chelsea (Premier League, August 2015)
(L) Manchester City 3-0 Chelsea (Premier League, August 2015)
(D) Chelsea 2-2 Swansea (Premier League, August 2015)

Maccabi Tel Aviv Form

(D) Ironi Kiryat Shmona 1-1 Maccabi Tel Aviv (Israeli Premier League, September 2015)
(W) Hapoel Be’er Sheva 0-1 Maccabi Tel Aviv (Israeli Premier League, August 2015)
(D) Maccabi Tel Aviv 1-1 FC Basel (Champions League, August 2015)
(W) Maccabi Tel Aviv 3-2 Bnei Sakhnin (Israeli Premier League, August 2015)
(D) FC Basel 2-2 Maccabi Tel Aviv (Champions League, August 2015)

Chelsea Team News

Oscar has been given the green light to return following his knee injury.

Baba Rahman is a chance to make his full Chelsea debut, while fellow new signing Papy Djilobodji has not been included in our Champions League squad.

Radamel Falcao has picked up a minor tendon problem but is likely to return to the squad for the weekend clash against Arsenal.
Thibaut Courtois has a torn meniscus requiring surgery which will potentially keep him out for up to three months.

Maccabi Tel Aviv Team News

Maccabi Tel Aviv has a clean bill of health for the trip to Stamford Bridge, but will be without first-choice right-back Eli Dasa after he was sent off in Europa League qualifying while representing Beitar Jerusalem.

Probable Lineups

Score Prediction

As chelseadaft wrote following the 3-1 defeat by Everton last weekend, we are in crisis at present. The display at Goodison Park was yet another abysmal effort in a series of awful performances this season.

Mourinho should be concerned about and seeking to rectify numerous problems with our current style of play. The most pressing issue right now is our lack of discipline in midfield. Willian, Eden Hazard and Cesc Fabregas were caught ball-watching too many times against the Toffees, and, to be frank, it cost us three goals.

With Nemanja Matic overworked defensively while partnering Fabregas, we have lost our solidity at the base of midfield. The answer to this, I believe, is to play either John Obi Mikel or Kurt Zouma in the Spaniard’s place, leaving he and Oscar to vie for the creative role behind Diego Costa. We might get away with Fabregas operating in holding midfield against Maccabi Tel Aviv to an extent, but this has to change against more formidable opponents.

I would be happy to see Mourinho experiment on Wednesday evening, particularly in a tactical sense. But Maccabi are a good side, and certainly won’t give up three points easily. I see us opening our Champions League campaign with a 3-1 win. What are your score predictions?

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