51 mins: Chelsea have once again started on the front foot, but Valencia are defending excellently and restricting the home side’s fun to areas far enough from goal for it not to matter very much.
48 mins: Ajax meanwhile stroll into a two-goal lead over Lille in tonight’s other Group H game. Edson Alvarez has scored their second.
48 mins: A Chelsea corner causes a moment of panic in the Valencia defence before being cleared, and then Willian’s shot is charged down.
46 mins: Peeeeeep! Valencia get the second half started, and within five seconds pass Cillessen into trouble. Abraham is very close to charging down his clearance, and somehow hurts his wrist in the process.
Valencia return to the field, so we should have more footballer very shortly. Depending on where the referee is, obviously.
“I’m flicking through the various games (lots of decent ones to have to choose between tonight!) but every time I switch over to the Chelsea game I have to turn the volume up,” sniffs Woolie Madden. “The difference in the crowd volume from the Napoli and Dortmund fans is a little embarrassing.” That’s a slightly unfairly high bar, though.
Half time: Chelsea 0-0 Valencia
45+3 mins: And that’s the end of the half! It’s been decent, but nothing has quite worked out for either side in the final third. I guess that means the middle third has been impeccable.
45+2 mins: Azpilicueta is not having his best game. He’s taking up good positions, but he keeps fluffing things in the final third. As I type that, though, he picks out Willian in the area, and he stings Cillessen’s palms with a firm drive!
45+1 mins: Chelsea continue to press. Willian tries to backheel to Azpilicueta, but the ball is intercepted. There will be two minutes of stoppage time.
43 mins: Chelsea are ending the half as strongly as they started it. A low cross from the left arrives behind Abraham so he nudges the ball back to Jorginho, who shoots into a defender.
41 mins: What a ball from Kovacic! And a miss from Willian! Pedro passes to Kovacic on the left, with Abraham in the middle and Willian not properly marked behind him. Kovacic has to check back onto his right foot, a delay that seems to end their advantage, but then he makes up for it with a spectacularly good pass that loops over the defender and straight onto the Brazilian’s boot. He collects, but then blooters his shot over!
40 mins: Willian goes on a lovely run from inside his own half into Valencia’s penalty area, but then he hits a poor pass to the overlapping Azpilicueta. Goal kick.
37 mins: Now Alonso crosses from the left and Abraham, in his desperation to get on the end of it, accidentally volleys Gaya. Free kick.
36 mins: Tomori gets into the area, tries to pass to Abraham, collects the rebound and finally shoots wide enough that it almost turns into a decent cross to Azpilicueta to the right of goal, but the bounce is unkind and the move ends with a goal kick.
35 mins: Willian, Chelsea’s No10, skips past Parejo, Valencia’s No10, hares towards the area and then shoots low and hard, just beyond the left-hand post.
33 mins: Jorginho is in the book, after launching himself at Kondogbia. It was almost the opposite of Coquelin’s caution, in that he hardly made any contact but the challenge was misguided enough to be worth a booking of its own.
30 mins: Valencia have the best chance of the game so far! It ends with a very decent shooting chance for Rodrigo, just outside the area, but his effort hits Gameiro and bounces away.
26 mins: Valencia meanwhile have awoken, having been dormant for the first quarter-hour. They ping the ball around the edge of Chelsea’s area, but as soon as they get inside it they lose control, and it rolls through to Kepa.
24 mins: Chelsea have had 60% of possession, but other than that one half-chance that Abraham had from Azpilicueta’s cross they have created very little. A quarter of the way through the game, and it’s reaching needs-a-goal territory.
22 mins: Chelsea break, and Willian carries the ball forward on the right while Pedro sprints into acres of space over to the left. He goes unspotted, and the chance is wasted.
20 mins: Valencia’s first attack ends with the ball being chipped through to Gaya, running from deep beyond the defence. His effort is saved by Kepa, and he was anyway offside.
19 mins: Elsewhere in Group H, Ajax have taken the lead at home to Lille. Quincy Promes with it.
17 mins: After Saturday’s wonderstrike there are cries of “shoot” whenever Tomori gets the ball, no matter how far from goal he is. He ignores them, and instead the ball is chipped up to Abraham, who handles it in trying to control. Free kick.
16 mins: Mount looks extremely unhappy to be leaving the field, but leave it he must. He walks off unaided, though, and Pedro replaces him.
14 mins: Mount is still limping, but perhaps not for long: Pedro appears to be readying himself.
11 mins: After lengthy treatment, Mount limps on. Willian takes an optimistic and pretty hopeless shot from the free kick.
9 mins: Coquelin gets an early booking. I’m not sure it was intentional, but in following through after clearing the ball he planted his studs deep into Mount’s ankle. I don’t think he meant it, but the contact was pretty ugly.
8 mins: Chelsea swing the ball into the area, again from the right. It’s a poor cross and goes straight to Wass, but he makes an absolute reeking howler of his clearance and very nearly tees up Abraham, forcing Kondogbia to throw a leg out to desperately intervene.
6 mins: Chance for Chelsea! A nice move down the right ends with Azpilicueta bursting to the byline and crossing to the near post, where Abraham sidefoots into Cillessen from an unpromising angle. Then the resulting corner is headed goalwards, but it’s more easy work for the goalkeeper.
4 mins: Jorginho hits the ball over the defence and into the path of Abraham, but it bounces through to Cillessen.
3 mins: The ball enters a penalty area for the first time, though it’s a Chelsea back-pass so no danger. There might be soon, though, the home side having somehow converted it into a Valencia throw-in in short order.
We’ve had anthems and handshakes, and are currently enjoying the coin toss. There’s very little now standing between us and kick-off.
The players are in the tunnel, and football is about to be played!
This year’s Champions League group stage ball (there’ll be another one for the knockout rounds) is extremely colourful. Apparently it’s “a bold multi-coloured design incorporating traditional colours from the Uefa Champions League as well as those seen across stadiums worldwide”. I think “colours seen across stadiums worldwide” pretty clearly means “whatever colours we fancied”.
Frank Lampard speaks very quickly. Here’s what he’s got to say about tonight’s formation – he’s sticking with the back three that served him so well at Wolves at the weekend.
I want us to be adaptable. I want us to be able to change. We did at the weekend. It doesn’t mean that’s the way we’re going to stay.
This is the fourth time tonight’s referee, Cuneyt Cakir, has taken charge of a match at Stamford Bridge. In positive omen news, Chelsea have won two and drawn one of the previous three. It is his first Valencia away game, though he was in charge of their 3-2 home win over Genoa in the Europa League a couple of weeks shy of a decade ago.
That’s just one change for Chelsea: Zouma is in, the injured Rudiger is out.
Here are the teams again in text-based form, for anyone who can’t see embedded tweets:
Chelsea: Arrizabalaga, Zouma, Christensen, Tomori, Azpilicueta, Jorginho, Kovacic, Alonso, Willian, Mount, Abraham. Subs: Barkley, Pedro, Caballero, Giroud, Pulisic, Batshuayi, Guehi.
Valencia: Cillessen, Wass, Garay, Gabriel, Gaya, Coquelin, Parejo, Kondogbia, Cheryshev, Rodrigo, Gameiro. Subs: Domenech Jaume, Costa Jaume, Goncalo Guedes, Diakhaby, Lee, Torres, Gomez.
Referee: Cuneyt Cakir (Turkey).
And here are Sid Lowe’s reports on last week’s managerial axe-swingery in Valencia:
Football club and all-round basket case Valencia are today’s visitors to Stamford Bridge, still reeling from the sacking of Marcelino García Toral less than a week ago for the crime of not-much-really. In came Albert Celades, former Spain Under-21 manager, with the club’s president, Anil Murthy, saying one of the reasons behind the switch was the fact that “Valencia must defend its philosophy of promoting young players who have come through the academy, and give them the opportunity to compete at the highest levels. The kind of player that has grown with the club since they were children and truly represent our values. They are the foundation of a team that must balance the club’s ambitions with a long-term sustainable model.”
Well, that sounds familiar. And in his very first game Celades helped one brilliant young player to make the headlines, although unfortunately the player involved, Ansu Fati, played for the opposition. Valencia lost 5-2 at Barcelona, 16-year-old Fati scored one and assisted another, while the visitors fielded five players aged 30 or above and only three below 25. Some work to go with the whole young-player thing, then.
On the very same day in Wolverhampton Chelsea were also involved in a 5-2 scoreline, although they had the best of it at Wolverhampton. It’s been a very promising start for Frank Lampard and his band of merry tykes, even if they are yet to keep a clean sheet, and this certainly has the potential to be another forward step even if there is strong anything-can-happen potential.
Celades is a fan of the 4-3-3, though is widely expected to stick with his predecessor’s 4-4-2 until he’s had a bit more time on the training ground. Still, with Chelsea playing 4-3-3 for most of the season (albeit they went with a back three at Molineux) perhaps this would be a decent day to unveil the big switch.
Anyway, and without further ado, hello! Here’s Jacob Steinberg’s pre-match preview: