For the Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho, the trip to Lisbon is a home coming. The 51 year old was Bobby Robson’s assistant as far back as 1992, when the Englishman managed the Portuguese outfit.
The Portuguese tactician will be putting all emotional attachments aside, as he hopes to put his team’s underwhelming first match showing behind them. The supposed favorites drew their opening match against Schalke 04, in a clash they were expected to easily win.
The Blues have only two injury concerns going into this match, as both the Ivorian Drogba and the former Benfica man Ramires have been sidelined.
Jose Mourinho confirmed that his star striker Didier was suffering from an ankle problem, while Ramires was long since been ruled out with an abductor muscle problem after the Manchester City clash.
The London side are coming into this tie on the back of a very easy victory against Aston villa that maintained their dominance of the English League. Their opponents Sporting are currently in seventh place in the Portuguese league and are coming into this clash after a surprising draw against the group underdog, Maribor.
The teams have never met before, and Sporting Lisbon will be fancying their chances against the English side having won their last three home fixtures against Premier League opposition, their last victory being against Manchester City in a Europa League quarter final in 2012.
Following their unexpected 1-1 draw against Schalke, Chelsea will be looking to take all 3 points from a clash they can’t afford to lose if they are to fulfill their ambitions of topping the group table at the end of group stage hostilities. They however have to be weary of a Sporting Lisbon side that is unbeaten in 16 European games.
A record of 13 wins and three draws since their defeat to Brondby in the Europa League play offs, is an impressive statistics and although the London club are hands down favorites, they will have to be weary of the threat that the side from Lisbon poses.
Chelsea also posses an impressive head to head record against Portuguese opposition as they played against sides from Portugal a total of 9 times, winning seven and losing just once against a dominant Porto side in 2004.
The stage is set for an epic group G encounter in what is the biggest competition in club football and with Mourinho confirming Costa’s inclusion in the starting eleven during yesterday’s press conference, the teams are most likely to line up like this;
CHELSEA: Courtois, Ivanovic, Terry, Azipilicueta, Luis, Matic, Mikel, Schurrle, Oscar, Willain, Costa.
SPORTING LISBON: Patricio, J Silva, Cedric, Sarr, Mauricio, Nani, Carvalho, Silva, Mario, Slimani, Carrillo.
Referee: Antonio Mateu Lahoz (Spain)
With the in form Diego Costa scoring 8 goals in his six appearances thus far, Chelsea fans will be happy that the most in form center forward in world football today, passed his late fitness test.
Despite the competitive nature of their opponents, the English side should run out clear winners in a match that is guaranteed to be open and free flowing.