Preview: Malmo vs. Chelsea

Preview: Malmo vs. Chelsea

A fortnight after their one-sided meeting in London, holders Chelsea reconvene with Malmo in Champions League Group H on Tuesday.

The pair clash at the Eleda Stadion with the European champions sitting second in the group behind Juventus, while their hosts are rock-bottom, without either a goal or a point.

Having begun the defence of their continental crown with a 1-0 win against Zenit St Petersburg, then lost by the scoreline to Juventus in Turin, Chelsea took a significant step towards the knockout stage earlier this month as they crushed Malmo at Stamford Bridge.

Penalty specialist Jorginho – current UEFA Player of the Year – demonstrated a customarily cool head to dispatch a pair of penalties against the Swedish champions, after Andreas Christensen had opened the scoring as early as the ninth minute.

Kai Havertz’s second-half strike sealed a 4-0 success for Thomas Tuchel’s men, putting any anguish at the defeat to Juve behind them and leaving the Premier League side in touch with the Bianconeri at the top of the table – just three points behind.

The Germany international’s previous Champions League goal was, of course, the winner in May’s all-English final at Estadio do Dragao, and his single-minded manager is intent on reaching a second successive showpiece next spring.

Certainly, the Blues’ league form since taking Malmo to the cleaners last time around will give Tuesday’s home side serious cause for concern.

After they strode to a ruthless 7-0 victory over hapless Norwich City, Tuchel’s team proceeded to put three past Newcastle on Saturday with no reply; wing-back Reece James spectacularly netting his second and third goals in the last two games.

Chelsea have now posted 13 points from a possible 15 away from home in the Premier League – which they lead by three points from Liverpool – and have conceded just once on the road in that competition. All of which makes uncomfortable reading for their next hosts.

Having started in the first round of qualifying, Malmo are back in the big time after six years away, after securing their 21st Swedish title – and fifth in the last eight Allsvenskan campaigns.

They also had to traverse some tricky ties in the preliminary process, knocking out Riga, HJK Helsinki, Rangers and then Ludogorets merely to reach the group stage.

However, the fairytale run Di Blae had enjoyed has subsequently come to a juddering halt over the past few weeks, as Jon Dahl Tomasson’s side have conceded 11 goals in their first three games, having previously lost at home to Juventus (3-0) and away to Zenit (4-0).

Another heavy defeat to Chelsea has seen all hope of progress – perhaps even to the Europa League as a third-placed finisher – extinguished, as Malmo lie three points below Zenit in the standings but have a vastly inferior goal difference.

Their two previous Champions League group campaigns – which came in 2014 and 2015; the latter being the last time a Swedish club appeared at this stage – did not end particularly well, given the gulf in funding between them and Europe’s top clubs.

Malmo finished fourth in their section on both previous appearances, winning one game and losing the other five, which would perhaps represent a realistic target for them to match this time around.

After a challenging period earlier this season, Tomasson has steered his team back to the top of the Allsvenskan table this month, as they contest a close battle for the title with Elfsborg and Stockholm sides Djurgarden and AIK. Successive wins over the latter and Sirius during the past week will have boosted Malmo’s confidence, but they still approach Tuesday night’s fixture with a certain amount of trepidation.

Malmo Champions League form:
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Malmo form (all competitions):
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Chelsea Champions League form:
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Chelsea form (all competitions):
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We say: Malmo 0-2 Chelsea
Even a slightly depleted Chelsea squad will have too much experience and guile for Malmo to manage on Tuesday, and the in-form reigning champions look set to seal a place in the last 16 sooner rather than later.

Once they have established a lead, the Blues might drop their levels of intensity, so the game could finish with a closer scoreline than many anticipate.

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