A dead rubber but not a dead game for Carlo Ancelotti who promised to pick the strongest Chelsea team available in the hope they can find some inspiration on the Mediterranean coast ahead of the gathering storm that is heading his way.
Five wins out of five Champions League games have ensured Chelsea first place in Group F, but their form in the Premier League has been anything but perfect, with only five points taken from a possible 18 in their last six games.
Chelsea's intimidating fixture list starts with Tottenham Hotspur away on Sunday and includes games with Manchester United and Bolton before a visit to the current league leaders Arsenal on 27 December. Ancelotti could be out of a job by then, as owner Roman Abramovich is not a man to suffer failure for long. In his hour of need Ancelotti is turning to the men who won the Double last season to get the club out of a hole again, even though some of them could do with a few days off.
In an ideal world, he would like to rest his walking wounded like John Terry, who turned 30 yesterday, and Didier Drogba, but he desperately needs a win tonight against Marseilles, who are already guaranteed to finish second. Drogba ardently wants to play in his first return to the club he left for £24m in 2004 despite still suffering from malaria, but the decision to start with him at Stade Velodrome has more do to with necessity than sentimentality.
Ancelotti said: "This is an important game, maybe even a key game, although I would say the real key games are the ones we have to come now against Tottenham, United and Arsenal. This, though is a good moment for us to come back to playing like we can and have a good performance and win if possible.
"We want to win but more importantly we have to show our way again. Maybe this could be a good opportunity to have a good performance to improve the confidence, to come back to playing our football. And so, for this reason, we need to put the best line-up possible on the pitch."
Ancelotti is hoping that by and large things will fix themselves. He is not ringing the changes; instead he is advising everyone to keep calm and carry on. "We have to change something there, but we do not have to change a lot," he said. "If you look, we were playing well and everything was OK for us, then we went into a poor moment. I think it can happen the other way, too, that we can recover just as quickly."
Chelsea travelled to the south of France yesterday without Ashley Cole, who has a slight ankle injury, and Nicolas Anelka, who picked up a knee strain in Saturday's draw with Everton.
Dutch defender Patrick van Aanholt, who impressed in Chelsea's last European outing against MSK Zilina, will replace Cole, while Daniel Sturridge is likely to step in for Anelka. Frank Lampard is also staying behind to work on his fitness, and Ancelotti did not rule out a comeback against Tottenham.
Results so far: Marseilles 0-1 Spartak, Zilina 1-4 Chelsea; Spartak 3-0 Zilina, Chelsea 2-0 Marseilles; Spartak 0-2 Chelsea, Marseilles 1-0 Zilina; Chelsea 4-1 Spartak, Zilina 0-7 Marseilles; Chelsea 2-1 Zilina, Moscow 0-3 Marseilles.
Remaining fixtures: Tonight Marseilles v Chelsea, MSK Zilina v Spartak Moscow.Reuse content