Victory would ensure Chelsea a place in the knockout stages, and they could even top Group E if Bayer Leverkusen fail to win at whipping boys Genk. The only draw that will take the Blues through is a goalless one, a seemingly improbable prospect against a team that smashed seven in the last Champions League fixture, and in any event a risky tactic to bank on. Defeat would eliminate Chelsea and send them tumbling into the Europa League, the competition’s very much poorer relative.
Valencia arrive at Stamford Bridge with their tails up, having won seven of their last eight games, including their last two in Europe. Their only defeat of this purple patch was a narrow 3-2 reverse against Real Madrid, who are themselves on an even better run of 14 successive wins in all competitions. Valencia, who have finished third in the Spanish top flight in the last two seasons, once again lie just behind Real and Barcelona, yet only four points off the mighty Catalans, with a game in hand.
Now in his third season at the Mestalla, Unai Emery (inset) has steered Valencia a back into the Champions League and into the slipstream of the big two despite losing stars David Silva, David Villa and – to Chelsea – Juan Mata. Still just 40, he moved into management straight after an unremarkable career in the second tier. The Basque earned his current post by leading unfashionable sides Lorca and Almeria to promotions in his first seasons in charge.
Powerful target man Roberto Soldado (below) spearheads Valencia’s attack, and with some potency, having racked up 14 goals already this season, including five from five in Europe. He netted a 26-minute hat-trick against Genk last time out and has been a driving force behind the team’s recent surge, having netted six in four appearances. Brazilian Jonas, who can play up front or on the wing, is not generally as prolific but has scored three in the Champions League. There is quality throughout the side, with France centre-back Adil Rami also a goal threat.