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Key trip looms for Blues

Chelsea return to Germany for the first time since winning the European Cup when they visit Schalke.

Last Updated: 19/10/13 at 12:53 Post Comment   

Hazard is excelling under Mourinho

Hazard is excelling under Mourinho

Chelsea return to Germany for the first time since winning the European Cup with their Champions League Group E hopes hinging on the double-header with Schalke.

The Blues won the 2012 tournament in Munich, against Bayern Munich, but last year suffered the ignominy of being the first holders to exit in the group stage.

They responded by winning the Europa League, but manager Jose Mourinho has no desire to play in the second-tier competition and hopes to guide his side into the knockout stages of the premier event.

Chelsea responded to the surprise loss to Basle with an emphatic win at Steaua Bucharest and require another away victory against group leaders Schalke in Gelsenkirchen on Tuesday to go halfway towards Jose Mourinho's 12-point target.

For the Blues to succeed, much relies on their playmaking trio, deployed behind a lone striker.

Belgium forward Eden Hazard is sure to be among the three, having excelled under Mourinho.

Hazard, who is fit again after missing the trip to Romania due to an ankle injury, told chelseafc.com: "It's so great to play with Juan (Mata), with Oscar and with Andre (Schurrle).

"We have to work together to make playing together easier. When we do that we always make chances and score goals."

Schurrle, who scored a hat-trick for Germany in the 5-3 World Cup qualifying defeat of Sweden and also netted against the Republic of Ireland, is a doubt for a first return to his homeland since moving to Stamford Bridge from Bayer Leverkusen with a leg injury.

He performed well against Bayern in the European Super Cup in Prague and also at Steaua last time out, but the Blues should make light of his likely absence, with options at Mourinho's disposal.

Brazil forward Willian and Kevin de Bruyne are also in contention for the three roles, along with Mata, Oscar and Hazard.

Hazard, for his part, knows he is a marked man and that space is at a premium, meaning he must adapt to continue to be effective.

"It's difficult for me," the 22-year-old former Lille forward added.

"I need to change something on the pitch and understand the situation each game.

"Against three defenders it is different than against one, and obviously more difficult.

"I need to play more simply, but also more quickly."

Schalke may leave more space for Hazard and company to attack as they go in search of their third win in three games this season following the 3-0 defeat of Steaua and 1-0 win at Basle last time out.

Chelsea have been at their best this season when playing at a high tempo and playing on the counter-attack might suit them.

Following the loss to Basle, Mourinho said Chelsea have little margin for error.

A draw will be the least he would expect from the trip to Germany, who have lost only three of their last 12 home fixtures in the competition, qualifying included, winning nine.

Avoiding defeat would put Chelsea in a strong position ahead of the home clash with the Germans on November 6.


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