Chelsea vs Qarabag FK Preview: Conte's men face a tricky tie in first game back from European hiatus

The Blues host the Azerbaijan outfit at the Bridge, hoping they can take the three points and kick-start their Champions League campaign.

Chelsea vs Qarabag FK Preview: Conte's men face a tricky tie in first game back from European hiatus
Antonio Conte holds press conference ahead of Champions League tie (Photo Credit: Getty Images/ Dan Istitene)

Chelsea begin their one-year hiatus from the Champions League with a home fixture with Qarabag FK on Tuesday evening.

It will be the first time The Blues have met the Azerbaijani champions, and they will no doubt provide a different challenge than regular opponents.

Qarabag will be looking to make an impression in this year’s tournament, as they become the first Azeri outfit to qualify for a major European competition’s group stages.

The Stamford Bridge outfit are considered firm favourites for the game and will be expecting to take a maximum six points from both meetings, especially with Roma and Atletico Madrid also in their group.

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Team News

Antonio Conte’s side will play seven matches within the space of three weeks during September, so the Italian will be looking to keep his squad fresh and fit for the month.

Eden Hazard, who made his return for the team against Leicester City last weekend as a late substitute, will return to the bench for the start of the European tie.

The Belgium international has missed the beginning of the season with an ankle injury, and Conte is keen to not rush the player back, with patience the key to his recovery.

Deadline-day signing Danny Drinkwater is the only player to be a certain absentee from the squad, as he continues to recover from a calf injury, which prevented him from featuring against his former employers at the weekend.

Chelsea’s captain Gary Cahill could feature, making his first appearance in over a month, after he was shown a straight red card for his tackle in the first half of their shock defeat to Burnley at Stamford Bridge.

The England defender was suspended for three matches, however, that ban had only applied to domestic football, and Conte will be pleased to have him as an option once again.

Potential Starting XI: Courtois, Cahill, Luiz, Rudiger; Alonso, Moses, Kante, Fabregas, Willian, Pedro, Morata.

Qarabag manager Gurban Gurbanov can call upon some experienced players to help compete against the Premier League Champions, with goalkeeper Anton Kanibolotskiy and Michel in the side.

The shot-stopper was once a former team-mate of Chelsea’s Brazilian ace, Willian, during their time at Ukrainian outfit Shakhtar Donetsk, whilst the midfielder has had spells in Spain with Getafe and Sporting Gijon.

Didon Ndlovu has been in impressive form during this season’s qualifiers, having already netted four goals in six matches and Chelsea will be well aware of the attacking threat he poses.

Potential Starting XI: Kanabolotskiy; Sadygov, Agolli, Medvedev, B. Huseynov; Amirguliyev, Michel, Ismayilov, Diniyev; Ndlovu, Madatov.

Background

Qarabag have only ever played one English outfit before, with Tottenham Hotspur having the honour, playing them in the Europa League two years ago – with two wins from two.

Chelsea will be looking to advance to the knockout stages of the Champions League for the 14th time, having failed on just the one occasion to progress further.

The Blues have only lost one of their previous 13 group games, having won 9 of those and have managed to score at least once in each of their 24 ties.