Champions League 2015 – 2016 Group G: Chelsea Crash and Burn, Porto Take the Frontrunner Position
Back in the summer, right after the UCL group stage draw was announced, Champions League 2015 – 2016 Group G looked like one of the tournament’s more predictable segments. Portugal’s Porto FC and England’s Chelsea FC seemed destined to take the top two slots in the group while Ukraine’s Dynamo Kyiv and Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv seemed almost sure to be also-rans. After all, Chelsea were fresh off a thoroughly dominant run in the always-competitive Premier League, and Porto went all the way to the UCL quarterfinals last year.
Trouble for Chelsea?
Now, though, with two of the six game-days officially on the books for Group G, things are looking a bit shaky for Chelsea. The Blues lost what could end up being a key group stage match on Tuesday, September 29th, falling 1-2 to Porto. Dynamo Kyiv, meanwhile, skated into the top two with a 2-0 victory at Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Should Chelsea fans start to worry that their soccer squad might not reach the round of 16 in this year’s UCL? Not quite yet. The Blues thankfully have a bit of a cushion, thanks to their huge 4-0 home win against Maccabi back in mid-September.
The bad news, though, is that Chelsea fell from first place in Group G to third place with their loss on the 29th. Since Porto and Kyiv drew their first match 2-2 and won their respective second matches, both football clubs are ahead of the reigning English champs.
The Blues actually have a better goal difference than both teams at the moment, so they could go right back to first with a win against Dynamo Kyiv on October 29th. But with how Chelsea have been struggling to make an impression in the Premier League so far this season, the odds of the club making a comeback don’t seem as strong now as they would have a year ago. After all, the Blues have lost more games across all competitions this season than they lost in the entirety of their 2014 – 2015 campaign.
A Broken Defense
Whether or not Chelsea can rally will almost completely determine how Group G shakes out come the end of the year. It seems fairly clear that Maccabi Tel Aviv are out of the race, but the other three teams could
all feasibly progress to the knockouts. In other words, it’s too early to make any concrete predictions about which of the three football clubs won’t reach the round of 16.
If Chelsea can’t repair their broken defense, though, the smart money is on them to miss out on the next round. The Blues led the September 29th game in possession (55%) and took more shots on goal than Porto, but were so toothless defensively that they ended up giving away the match anyway.
Part of the problem is that Chelsea doesn’t have a great goalkeeper right now. With the soccer club’s number one goalkeeper, Thibaut Courtois, out with an injury, and with their old number two, Petr Cech, gone in a transfer to Arsenal, Asmir Begovic is filling in. Begovic transferred to Stamford Bridge from Stoke City over the summer. Last season, he kept seven clean sheets out of 35 Premier League appearances. Courtois, in comparison, kept 13. Unsurprisingly, we are feeling the effects of the goalkeeper switch very notably at the moment.
Not that Chelsea’s loss against Porto was all Begovic’s fault. On the contrary, Blues full-back Branislav Ivanovic might be the soccer club’s biggest problem this season. The defender recorded 10 missed passes in the match and failed to stop the drive that led to Porto’s first goal, continuing what has been a poor season across the board.
During the 2014 – 2015 campaign, Ivanovic was one of the most unbeatable defenders in the world; this season, he’s been a liability. In fact, Chelsea might be better off if Jose Mourinho put Ivanovic on the bench and gave a younger player a shot. After all, the manager proved he’s not afraid to put fan favorites on the bench. In the Porto match, Mourinho didn’t even start reigning PFA Player of the Year Eden Hazard. Like Ivanovic, Hazard has crashed from valuable asset to dead weight this season.
What do you think is going to happen in Champions League 2015 – 2016 Group G? Which football clubs are going to the round of 16? What on earth is going on with Chelsea FC?