The teams are out! Chelsea play in royal blue. Milan sport the lucky white away strip they’ve worn in six of their seven victorious European Cup finals. (For the record, the only final they’ve won when wearing their first-choice red and black stripes is the 4-1 rout of Ajax in 1969.) Stamford Bridge expects, with both sets of fans in good voice. We’ll be off once the Uefa marketing department have desecrated the work of George Frideric Handel.
Graham Potter speaks to BT Sport. “It’s an important game, we know that. We want to be aggressive, get the crowd involved in the game, and play well. We have to express ourselves and be positive. We’re playing against top opponents so we have to play well. The boys are in a good place, so we’re looking forward to it. Whoever plays, they’re going to be strong. We have to focus on ourselves, that’s what we can control. We’ve had some good preparation, and feel like we’ve taken a step from the previous match, so now it’s just about playing, and playing well, and hopefully getting the points.”
Tonight’s other game in Group E has just finished. RB Salzburg have claimed their first win, beating Dinamo Zagreb 1-0 at Stadion Salzburg thanks to a 71st-minute Noah Okafor penalty. As things stand, they move to the top of the group, cranking up the pressure on bottom-placed Chelsea.
Chelsea make two changes to the XI sent out for the 2-1 win at Crystal Palace last weekend. Kalidou Koulibaly makes his first appearance under Graham Potter. Ruben Loftus-Cheek is also called up. Jorginho and Kai Havertz drop to the bench.
A couple of Chelsea old boys line up for Milan this evening: Olivier Giroud and Fikayo Tomori. Erstwhile Liverpool supersub Divock Origi is on the bench.
Chelsea: Arrizabalaga, Fofana, Thiago Silva, Koulibaly, James, Loftus-Cheek, Kovacic, Chilwell, Mount, Aubameyang, Sterling.
Subs: Jorginho, Pulisic, Bettinelli, Chalobah, Mendy, Broja, Zakaria, Ziyech, Gallagher, Azpilicueta, Havertz, Cucurella.
AC Milan: Tatarusanu, Dest, Kalulu Kyatengwa, Tomori, Toure, Bennacer, Tonali, Krunic, De Ketelaere, Leao, Giroud.
Subs: Diaz, Rebic, Origi, Pobega, Gabbia, Mirante, Jungdal, Gala, Coubis.
Referee: Danny Makkelie (Netherlands).
AC Milan are old-school European royalty; Chelsea kings of the new. Both of Chelsea’s European Cups have been won since Milan’s last victory in 2007; the rossoneri, second only to Real Madrid on the all-time list with seven wins, haven’t got anywhere near since. In other words, this is a match-up right out of the top drawer, yet there’s been no overlap whatsoever with both clubs simultaneously in their pomp. In fact, the only time they’ve previously met was in the first group stage of the 1999-2000 Champions League, a goalless affair at Stamford Bridge preceding a 1-1 draw at San Siro, Olivier Bierhoff and Dennis Wise with the goals, both clubs in something of an unglamorous transitionary phase. Their third competitive meeting tonight sees the two megaclubs in equally middling form, but with Chelsea bottom of the Group E table after defeat in Zagreb and a home draw with Salzburg, the stakes are high and tension guaranteed. Kick off is at 8pm BST. It’s on!