No Dane sailing
Phil Thompson says Chelsea will enter a raucous atmosphere in Copenhagen - and exit with just a draw.
Last Updated: 21/02/11 4:41pm
Under normal circumstances you'd look at this tie and make Chelsea overwhelming favourites - but the way things have been going for them of late, it could prove to be a tricky draw.
The reason for Chelsea's stuttering from is quite obvious: a lack of confidence in each other. Self doubt has crept into their game.
When you're struggling, everything goes against you. You can be a goal up and looking comfortable, and then as the match draws to a close, the opposition gets a set-piece and you begin to fear - and that's exactly what happened against Everton in the FA Cup.
But the Champions League, in all likelihood, is their only chance of silverware this season and you would expect them to be really fired up for this game.
We know it's Roman Abramovich's holy grail and if his club win it, it will bring him so much kudos in the business world. Chelsea have reached the semi-finals of this competition five times in the last seven years and everyone at the club is determined to get their hands on the trophy.
Of course, they won't be helped by the rumours about Carlo Ancelotti possibly getting the sack, which intensified in Monday's newspapers.
Players should be able to get on with their jobs but when these stories surface consistently, they do take note. They'll either be in the Ancelotti camp or not. That creates divides and is not great for team morale.
I think Ancelotti will want to make a real statement of intent in Copenhagen and secure a confidence-boosting win. Therefore, I could possibly see him playing Fernando Torres, Nicolas Anelka and Didier Drogba from the start.
Copenhagen may be a bit rusty - they don't start their Danish league campaign until next month - so maybe Ancelotti will look at it and think this is a game where his three "star" strikers can perform as a unit. If it were me, though, I would go with two up front and a flatter midfield, with Drogba the man to miss out.
Copenhagen will be a really tough nut to crack. They are unbeaten at home in the Champions League this term, beating Rubin Kazan and Panathinaikos, and getting a great draw with Barcelona.
Their ground, the Parken Stadium, is very tight and as the Danes loves English football I'm expecting a vociferous crowd. I've seen their other games and the passion is intense, my goodness they make some racket! It will certainly be a warm welcome for Chelsea
And much like Shakhtar Donetsk did against an out-of-sorts Roma last week, Copenhagen may be able to smell Chelsea's fear and capitalise on it. They are polishing off their pre-season at the moment, but you could make the argument that they will be fresher than Chelsea - for the first half at least! It will be like somebody has wound them up and let them go in the early stages; they just have to be careful they don't run too much.
Ancelotti has paid credit to Copenhagen's dynamism, but they do have someone who could turn the game, ex-Chelsea man Jesper Gronkjaer.
He was enigmatic during his time in England but usually the bigger the game, the better he performed. He is expected to start in the hole behind lone striker Dame N'Doye, and will be looking to get on the ball and make things happen. He's still got a bit of pace and that ability to drag the ball past a defender.
Of course, let's not forget that he played a vital role in Chelsea's success over the last few years. He scored the goal against Liverpool on the final day of the 2002/03 season to get them in the Champions League, and that seemingly persuaded Abramovich to take control of the club.
Everyone in football knew how bad the money issues were; they could have gone into administration, so if Gronkjaer hadn't scored that goal, who knows how far they might have fallen? They are the margins you deal with in football.
So it would be quite ironic that a player who made Chelsea's rise possible, could put a nail in the coffin of both Chelsea's Champions League hopes - and their manager's job.
THOMMO'S VERDICT: I think this game will end in a draw. Chelsea are going to be overworked early on because Copenhagen will come flying out of the traps, but Ancelotti's side should be able to deal with that and as long as they're not behind at half time, they could be the dominant force afterwards.
They haven't been very fluent up front of late, though, so I'm not sure they will trouble the scoring themselves. I can see a 0-0 draw, which won't be that inspiring on Chelsea's part but will put them firmly in control of the tie ahead of the second leg at Stamford Bridge.