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Tuesday, 18 December, 2018

Stuttering Chelsea could be exposed by lively Roma

Italians can storm the Bridge

Edin Dzeko could trouble Chelsea
1 of 1

Champions League
BT Sport 3, 7.45pm Wednesday

Chelsea have banged in eight goals in their first two Champions League matches and they are likely to be involved in an exciting match with Roma at Stamford Bridge.

The Blues have been coping well with a supposedly difficult group and another victory will see them open up a five-point lead at the top of the section.

However, the mood in the camp has soured since they deservedly won 2-1 at Atletico Madrid last month.

Alvaro Morata struck the opening goal against Atletico and has returned to full training this week, handing a major boost to Antonio Conte.

The Spanish striker quickly established himself as an indispensable part of the team and was sorely missed at the weekend as the Blues laboured to a 2-1 defeat at Crystal Palace.

Alvaro Morata could return for Chelsea against Roma

Replacement Michy Batshuayi fluffed his lines when given a rare opportunity to lead the Blues' attack and looked disconsolate when making way for Pedro in the early stages of the second half at Selhurst Park.

In Chelsea's previous match at home to Manchester City, Batshuayi had to wait until the 73rd minute to come off the bench and it is becoming clear that he doesn't have the full confidence of his manager.

Champions League previews

Benfica v Manchester United

Bayern v Celtic

It means that there is a huge responsibility on Morata to lead the line and stay fit for a busy period of five matches in the next 14 days.

But if Morata is recovered from injury, his presence will make life a lot tougher for a Roma defence missing injured Greek international Kostas Manolas, who was injured during Saturday's 1-0 loss at home to Napoli.

The uncompromising 26-year-old has been a mainstay of the defence for the last three seasons and will be replaced by former Tottenham defender Federico Fazio, who is strong in the air but lacks pace.

Roma are weaker at the back but stronger in midfield with Kevin Strootman - a former Manchester United transfer target - fully recovered from an injury and expected to make his first start in three-and-a-half weeks.

Strootman should take his place alongside Radja Nainggolan and Daniele De Rossi in what looks a strong midfield three.

And Roma's physical strength and quality in the centre of the park could be an issue for the Blues, who are weakened by N'Golo Kante's absence with a hamstring strain.

The Frenchman's energy and discipline was sorely missed at Palace, allowing Wilfried Zaha the space and freedom to frighten the life out of Chelsea's back three.

Roma do not possess an attacker with the pace and skill of Zaha but they have a reliable target man in Edin Dzeko who spent five years in English football.

Dzeko was hit and miss during his time at Manchester City but he has had a great start to the season, scoring eight goals in nine appearances.

Chelsea will also have to keep an eye on Nainggolan, who has added goals to his game over the last two years and will be given licence to join in with the attackers.

Roma haven't been great in their opening two Champions League games, drawing 0-0 at home to Atletico Madrid and winning 2-1 away to Qarabag.

But the Italians will fancy their chances of exposing a Chelsea side on a two-match losing streak and they can play their part in an entertaining encounter likely to feature goals at both ends.

Both teams to score
1pt 4-5 Betfair

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Team news
Victor Moses (hamstring) has joined N'Golo Kante (hamstring) and Danny Drinkwater (calf) on the sidelines but Alvaro Morata (hamstring) is back in full training and may return.

Kevin Strootman and Stephan El Shaarawy are expected to be available after injuries but Kostas Manolas (abductor), Patrik Schick (muscle) and Gregoire Defrel (thigh) are out.

Key stat
Chelsea have kept one clean sheet in their last five matches.

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Roma's physical strength and quality in the centre of the park could be an issue for the Blues, who are weakened by N'Golo Kante's absence
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