Chelsea manager Andre
Villas-Boas faces the first major test of his Stamford Bridge
reign with his team's Champions League future on the line
against Valencia on Tuesday.
A 1-1 draw at Belgian side Racing Genk and 2-1 defeat at
Bayer Leverkusen have undermined Chelsea's challenge, but they
will reach the last 16 for a ninth successive season by beating
Valencia in their final Group E match or a eking out a goalless
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The sides have met five times in the competition with
Chelsea winning twice and three matches drawn but Valencia are
currently in better form.
Chelsea have lost five of their last 10 matches in all
competitions and although they played well in a 3-0 win at
Newcastle United on Saturday, shambolic high-line defending and
a lack of creativity in midfield have placed a heavy burden of
responsibility on the London side's strikers.
Villas-Boas can no longer rely on the ageing John Terry or
erratic David Luiz at the back and the young Portuguese manager
will hope that the impressive young England international Daniel
Sturridge continues his sharp form.
He scored his seventh league goal of the season at Newcastle
where the experienced Didier Drogba was also on target.
While Chelsea were winning at Newcastle, Valencia scraped a
2-1 home win over Espanyol in La Liga to maintain their grip on
third place but coach Unai Emery had to abandon plans to rest
Roberto Soldado, bringing his captain off the bench to score the
The in-form striker, who is making a strong case for
inclusion in Spain's squad for next year's European
Championship, took his La Liga tally to nine goals and has five
in this season's Champions League, including an equaliser from
the penalty spot against Chelsea and a hat-trick in the 7-0
drubbing of Genk.
Soldado said having to battle past Espanyol would stand the
players in good stead for the game at Stamford Bridge.
"It was a really tough match and we suffered a lot but we
showed we knew how to cope with it which will be important for
Tuesday when we are bound to suffer again," he told reporters.
"If we had lost today [Saturday] it would have put a
different complexion on Tuesday's game, which will be like a
final," added the 26-year-old former Real Madrid player.
"A win today confirmed the team's positive dynamic and we
are winning games and getting good results and that is important
for our confidence before we play Chelsea, who we know are one
of the world's best teams.
"We know it will be an extremely difficult match but without
doubt we will be at the required level and we hope to return
home with the result we expect."
Chelsea: 1-Petr Cech; 2-Branislav Ivanovic, 26-John Terry,
4-David Luiz, 3-Ashley Cole; 7-Ramires, 8-Frank Lampard, 6-Oriel
Romeu, 10-Juan Mata; 23-Daniel Sturridge, 11-Didier Drogba
Valencia: 1-Diego Alves; 23-Miguel, 4-Adil Rami, 18-Victor Ruiz,
22-Jeremy Mathieu; 19-Pablo Hernandez, 5-Mehmet Topal, 24-Tino
Costa, 17-Jordi Alba; 7-Jonas, 9-Roberto Soldado
Referee: Gianluca Rocchi (Italy)
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