Anderlecht v Chelsea

After our defeat to Real Betis it’s imperative we beat Anderlecht. Contrary to Jose Mourinho’s claim yesterday, a win will not be enough to qualify for the knockout stages unless Liverpool beat or draw against Betis at Anfield. We currently lie second in Group G, three points behind Liverpool and one ahead of Betis.

Nineteen players have travelled to Belgium. The five players missing from the twenty-four man squad are Lenny Pidgeley who played for the reserves on Tuesday, Arjen Robben who is still recovering from a hamstring injury, Glen Johnson who was injured during the first half of Saturday’s Premiership match, Shaun Wright-Phillips who is suspended after three yellow cards in this competition and, most importantly of all, Claude Makelele.

Makelele was forced out of the weekend win over Newcastle after a strong tackle on Chelsea old boy Scott Parker left him with a knee injury. It has subsequently been confirmed by club doctors that the Frenchman is likely to be out for up to three weeks.

Mourinho said during the pre-match press conference that either Michael Essien or long-term Makelele replacement Lassana Diarra will play in the holding midfield spot tonight.

“He [Makelele] is an important player for us, but we have solutions. Essien did well against Newcastle, and we have in Diarra a boy ready to do it.

“Essien can adapt to the role. He can give defensive protection to the central defence, give freedom to Lampard to go into attacking positions, try to play simple and organise the game in the first and second phase. But Diarra is ready. I have to decide.”

Didier Drogba is likely to be recalled in place of Hernan Crespo after missing the weekend win over Newcastle due to suspension.

Anderlecht’s Vincent Kompany is back in contention after returning to action at the weekend. The highly-rated 19-year-old centre-half is being chased by some of Europe’s top clubs and has been linked with us on numerous occasions. It’ll be interesting to see what all the fuss is about.

Prediction: It is more than a year since we last won away in the Champions League; we have suffered five defeats in our last six matches and failed to score in the last three. Anderlecht have failed to win any of their last eleven Champions League matches, home and away, and failed to score in their last five. Doesn’t promise much, does it?

However the 3-0 win over Newcastle will have oiled the cogs nicely and, despite Makelele’s absence, we should manage to beat an Anderlecht side devoid of confidence in this competition.

If things don’t go to plan — that is, if Betis manage to beat Liverpool — then the Reds’ visit to the Bridge in a fortnight’s time could prove to be our most important match of the season so far. A tasty prospect indeed — but one which I’d sooner not have to think about. Qualification tonight is much more preferable!

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Anderlecht 0 – 2 Chelsea · Update

Two early goals from Hernan Crespo and Ricardo Carvalho, and a 0-0 draw at Anfield secured our place in the knockout stages. Liverpool are also through and currently lead Group G by a single point. A win over the Reds at the Bridge in a fortnight’s time will secure us top spot.

Download the highlights here (zip file).

Match reports: BBC Sport; Sky Sports; ESPNSoccernet; Sporting Life; Official Chelsea FC Website; The Times; The Independent; The Guardian; Daily Telegraph.

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