Chelsea reached the semi-final of the Champions League last season and will be keen to go a step further this year.
Jose Mourinho has a better record than anyone in the competition over the last decade but has ‘only’ reached the semi-final in the last four seasons; he has not been involved in May’s showdown since winning the competition with Inter Milan in 2010 and will be desperate to not be the Champions League’s nearly man again this season.
But things are looking rosy for the Blues after a phenomenal start in the Premier League, led by new signings Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas who have fired Chelsea to four wins out of a possible four. Costa has scored seven goals in those matches and is providing the firepower Chelsea were desperately lacking last season, while his hold-up play and all-round game have been equally as impressive as his goal record.
Fabregas has been exceptional, revolutionising the way Chelsea play, dictating games from the first whistle while picking up seven assists already – his partnership with Nemanja Matic in midfield is a real strength for the Blues.
The only question mark for the home side is how much they leave in the tank for Sunday's huge match away to Manchester City.
Ominously for the German visitors, Schalke have made their worst start in the for 46 years after not winning a match in any of their first four fixtures. They have just a single point in the Bundesliga from three games, at home to Bayern Munich – a good result – but it was bookended by defeats to Hannover and Borussia Monchengladbach; they have also been knocked out of the League Cup by minnows Dynamo Dreseden. Eight players, including captain Bendikt Howedes, missed last Saturday’s defeat while Klaas-Jan Huntelaar has only just returned.
Chelsea and Schalke were drawn together in the group stages last season and the Blues won both matches comfortably, 3-0.
Expect something similar tonight.
KICK-OFF: Wednesday, 7.45pm
PAST THREE MEETINGS…
6 November 2013, Champions League group stage – Chelsea 3 (Eto’o x2, Ba) Schalke 0
22 October 2013, Champions League group stage – Schalke 0 Chelsea 3 (Torres x2, Hazard)
6 November 2007, Champions League group stage – Schalke 0 Chelsea 0
The win last November extended Chelsea's home record against German visitors to seven games without defeat (six wins, one draw); they have never lost at home to a Bundesliga club.
Jose Mourinho has never lost a home game against German opposition (W5 D2).
Chelsea's defeat by FC Basel 1893 a year ago was their first on matchday one after eight wins and three draws.
Last year's Stamford Bridge game was Schalke's only defeat in their last eight away UEFA Champions League group fixtures; they have won four and drawn three of the others.
Schalke are appearing in their seventh group stage, reaching the knockout rounds in each of the last four. They were eliminated in last-16 by eventual winners Real Madrid, losing 9-2 on aggregate.
Chelsea to win: 1.3
Schalke to win: 11
Live on Sky Sports 1 at 7.45pm.
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