Chelsea can secure a comfortable victory when they host Slovenian champions Maribor at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday (19:45 BST, live on ITV1).
The Blues are undefeated in all competitions so far this season. They top both the Premier League table, with 22 points from seven wins and one draw, and Champions League Group G, following a draw at home Schalke and victory away to Sporting Lisbon.
Jose Mourinho’s side won a hard-fought London derby away to Crystal Palace on Saturday. Oscar gave them an early lead with a superbly struck free-kick and they had the better of a physical encounter thereafter. Both teams were reduced to 10 men before Cesc Fabregas doubled Chelsea’s lead just after half-time. The match ended 2-1 after a late Palace goal.
It was the first time this season that Chelsea had gone into a league match without summer signing Diego Costa. The former Atletico Madrid striker has slotted seamlessly into the team, scoring nine goals in seven appearances and providing the strong and mobile focal point that they lacked last season. In his absence, Loic Remy (pictured) gave a solid performance up front.
The arrivals of Costa and Fabregas have added further goal threat to a side who had the best defensive record in the Premier League last season, but who were comfortably outscored by both teams that finished ahead of them. With the attacking midfielders offering additional incision and Nemanja Matic shielding the defence, Chelsea look very strong.
Mourinho has confirmed that Costa (hamstring) will again be absent on Tuesday, while Andre Schurrle (illness) and Ramires (knee) are both doubtful.
Maribor are third in the Slovenian league, with 26 points from eight wins, two draws and three defeats. They overcame Zrinjski, Maccabi Tel Aviv and Celtic to reach the Champions League group stage and have performed well in their two fixtures to date.
Ante Simundza’s side were out-possessed and out-shot by both Sporting Lisbon (at home) and Schalke (away), but they nevertheless came away with highly credible 1-1 draws from both fixtures. Promising youngster Luka Zahovic pounced on a defensive error to score a last-minute equaliser against Sporting, while Damian Bohar scored in the tie with Schalke.
Maribor have won the Slovenian league in each of the last four seasons. They scored more and conceded less goals than any other side during last season’s triumph. They have not, however, enjoyed the same degree of success in Europe. This year is the first time they have ever qualified for the group stage of the Champions League.
Simundza does, though, have some decent players at his disposal. Experienced goalkeeper Jasmin Handanovic made a number of good saves against both Sporting and Schalke, Agim Ibraimi strikes the ball really well from long range, while Marcos Tavares has a solid scoring record in both domestic and European competition. Zahovic is a tricky little forward.
Simundza looks to have a full squad available to him ahead of the trip to Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea vs Maribor Betting Tips
These two sides have never met before and this match will also be Chelsea’s first fixture against a side from Slovenia. Maribor have won one, drawn one and lost four in their previous six matches against English teams. Their Europa League victory over Wigan last year was the first win for a Slovenian club against English opposition.
Chelsea are firing on all cylinders at the moment and will expect to record a comfortable victory. Wins home and away to Maribor would put them in a very strong position to qualify, perhaps with a match to spare. Even without Costa, they have sufficient quality in attack and have also looked relatively secure at the back so far this season.
The manner in which Maribor have performed throughout the Champions League qualifying rounds and their group stage matches to date suggests they will be far from a pushover. They have a very good goalkeeper, are determined in their defensive work and possess attackers who are capable of nicking a surprise goal on the counter-attack.
Chelsea are, though, the clear favourites and can be expected to continue their excellent early-season form with another victory on Tuesday.
- Back Chelsea to win by two goals on the ‘winning margin’ market @ 3/1 with Bet365, SkyBet or Paddy Power.
- Chelsea have scored before half-time in five of their six home matches in all competitions so far this season and at the 28th minute mark or earlier in four of them. We expect them to make a similarly quick start. Back the time of the first Chelsea goal to be under 28 minutes @ 7/10 with BetVictor.