Meet the Israeli primed to give Chelsea a Champions League headache
Jose Mourinho may have said that he is “not used to losing” after seeing his side slip to another defeat at the hands of Everton last weekend, but could his side continue to test his mettle?
Chelsea host Maccabi Tel Aviv in their Champions League opener on Wednesday night, and as 2/11 favourites can be expected to bounce back to winning ways.
However with some unusual defensive frailties exposed this term, unless they can control one man that miserable run could yet continue at Stamford Bridge.
Their Israeli opponents have only reached the group stage of the top European competition on one occasion, but with Eran Zahavi running things on the pitch, they can certainly cause a shock or two.
The 28-year-old has carried The Yellows through the qualification rounds, netting their last five Champions League goals.
But it’s not just in Europe that he has been on fire.
With 11 strikes in his most recent 10 Maccabi games, taking his record to 89 goals in 121 matches for the club, Mourinho’s men are going to be put well and truly to the test by the attacking midfielder.
His 10-goal haul for Maccabi eclipses the total that Diego Costa, Eden Hazard, Cesc Fabregas, Willian and Loic Remy have scored in the competition for Chelsea – combined.
After his brace against Basel in the final qualifying round former Manchester United man and current Sporting Director at Bloomfield Stadium Jordi Cruyff described Zahavi as “one of the best signings in Maccabi Tel Aviv’s history”.
With his record there to see and the Blues in dire straits, the 5/1 about him finding the net in west London looks too good to turn down.
Chelsea’s defending has been so leaky that they have now conceded at least two goals in their last five games. The last time they did that was way back in December 1991.
Unless they improve, their European campaign could go the same way as their domestic one.
They will be without Radamel Falcao for the game at the Bridge, but do have the added bonus that Brazilian playmaker Oscar is set to make a return.
While the host’s qualities should on paper guarantee three points, with clubs like Basel, FC Copenhagen, Rosenborg and APOEL Nicosia leaving Stamford Bridge with at least a point in the past decade, don’t be shocked to see Zahavi and Maccabi giving them something to think about.
Fancy Chelsea to bag the three points despite conceding? Ladbrokes are boosting the price for the Blues to win and both teams to score from 12/5 to 3/1!
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