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Champions League Preview: Maribor – Chelsea

Chelsea visit Maribor tomorrow evening hoping to put their qualification to the second round on ice- the Londoners can move clear of Schalke if the latter fail to beat Sporting Lisbon.

Celtic fans will certainly be hoping that Maribor can pull off a coup against Chelsea tomorrow, as the Bhoys were knocked out of European contention by the Slovenians, who were embarassed 6-0 at Stamford Bridge two weeks ago.

And the Slovenian outfit certainly has what it takes to pull off a shock- especially if the Blues fall victim to fatigue: this will be their fourth game in 11 days. We saw some signs of that on Saturday against Queens Park Rangers, where Eden Hazard rescued his side from the spot fifteen minutes from time.

With some form of turnover likely names like John Obi Mikel and Ramires have been doing the rounds. Another hot topic is Andre Schürrle, though Hazard and Oscar’s youthful energy are also in the mix. Mourinho’s biggest question mark is the form of Diego Costa. With the Spaniard’s fragile legs always in need of rest, Didier Drogba’s recent form may prove decisive.

The Blues are heavy favourites, but would do well not to underestimate their opponents, whose 6-0 drubbing was still a testament to just how impressive their Champions league campaign has been, it being their ninth game in this year’s edition.

Far from embarassing themselves, the Purple had aquitted themselves well before facing Chelsea, pulling off two draws against European regulars Schalke 04 and Sporting Lisbon. Though both sides have endured a difficult start to the season, there is no doubt that few expected Maribor to come away with points. Chelsea have been warned.

The Slovenians will be without defender Aleksander Rajcevic (out with a head injury) and Ales Mejac (hamstring), whilst Zeljko Filipovic and Agim Ibraimi (both ill) are last-minute calls.

Maribor themselves lost to table-topping Domzale, the 1-0 defeat leaving them 11 points adrift and pushing them further out of title contention. Then again, they have lost twice before facing European opposition, so it is clear their focus is more on European football.

UPDATE 14:05

Neither Mikel or Remy trained today, so they will both miss the trip to Slovenia.

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