With our European schedule for the rest of 2012 now decided, the official Chelsea website casts an eye over the three clubs we face home and away…
Two state-of-the-art stadiums await the Chelsea players and travelling fans when we embark on this season’s Champions League group stage games, as does a new country.
Ukrainian opposition is new to the Blues and with the city of Donetsk located in the eastern coal-mining region of that country, the away game against Shakhtar is one of the furthest trips possible in European competition.
It was the formation of a national league in Ukraine after the break-up of the Soviet Union that paved the way for Shakhtar to eventually emerge onto the European stage, but first they had to move out of the long shadow cast by Dynamo Kiev who dominated the first decade of the league, Andriy Shevchenko’s goals aiding them in that.
Benefitting from significant financial investment, Shakhtar made it to the Champions League group stage for the first time in 2000. Arsenal were one of their opponents and lost the away game 3-0 although the Gunners had already qualified for the next stage. It was in 2002 that Shakhtar finally took the league title from their rivals from Kiev and they have had the better of it since with six further championships.
This is their eighth season in the Champions League group stage but it was in the final season of the UEFA Cup, before its Europa League relaunch, that Shakhtar’s finest moment came when they defeated Werder Bremen 2-1 in the 2009 final having seen off Dynamo Kiev in the semi.
Manager that season, as he is still, was Mircea Lucescu. Previous to taking over at Shakhtar the Romanian was in charge at Besiktas and led the Istanbul club to victory at Stamford Bridge in the group stage in 2003, only our second home defeat in Europe, although we won the later ‘away’ leg which was moved to Germany for security reasons.
Brazilians as well as Ukrainians have made up a significant part of the Shakhtar squad during their successful years with winger Willian, one of the UEFA Cup-winning side, linked last year with a move to Chelsea and this summer with one to Tottenham.
Luiz Adriano, another Brazilian, scored in the UEFA Cup triumph and he is joined in the current attack by former Arsenal striker Eduardo.
Captain is Darijo Srna, a fixture in the Croatia national team, while Prague-born Tomas Hubschman will be known to Petr Cech.
It was midfielder Marko Devic’s shot that was controversially judged to have been cleared by John Terry before it crossed the line when England played the host nation at Euro 2012. Shakhtar keeper Andriy Pyatov was between the posts that night.
The Donbass Arena (pictured above) in Donetsk opened in 2009, costing approximately 400m US dollars.
Juventus will be competing in Europe for the first time in their new stadium, which has replaced the unloved concrete bowl that was the Stadio delleAlpi.
That venue had already been knocked down at the time of Chelsea’s 2009 visit, Juve temporarily returning to one of their former homes, the Stadio Olimpico, during the rebuild. Claudio Ranieri was the Old Lady’s manager then and they have had four more since.
Antonio Conte is the current incumbent, a former Juventus captain who won five Serie A titles and the Champions League in 1996 as team mate of Luca Vialli, but suffered final defeat on three occasions, including by Carlo Ancelotti’s AC Milan at Old Trafford in 2003.
Conte also played alongside Roberto Di Matteo for Italy but is currently at the start of a season-long ban from Italian football as a result of a recent, wide-ranging match-fixing scandal.
As 28-times Serie A winners and twice European Champions, Juventus’s pedigree is beyond doubt and on the playing front, the likes of Gianluigi Buffon, Lucio and Andrea Pirlo need little introduction.
Montenegrin striker Mirko Vucinic helped shoot down Chelsea when playing for Roma in 2008 while summer arrival from Man United, Paul Pogba, played against our U18s in the FA Youth Cup last season.
Juventus’s intimate 41,000-seater stadium (below), now a year old, will hold the 2014 Europa League final.
First-time Danish league champions FC Nordsjaelland are the product of a merger between two clubs 20 years ago although they only took on their current name nine years back, shortly after they entered the Danish top-flight for the first time, a status they have retained ever since.
In order to compete with the established clubs in Copenhagen, on whose fringes they are located, Nordsjaelland have styled themselves as a club for the whole region, with their name (North Zealand in translation) referencing the large island of which the Danish capital covers a small part. Local businessman Allan Pedersen took ownership of the club the same year Roman Abramovich arrived at Chelsea.
As well as their one league title, Nordsjaelland won the Danish Cup in 2010 and 2011 and current coach Kasper Hjulmand (below) was the assistant for those victories, taking full charge at the start of the league-winning campaign when his predecessor became coach of the Denmark U21 side.
The playing squad is predominantly Danes and contains some full Denmark internationals. Defender Michael Parkhurst is a US international and they have signed former Dutch Under-21 striker Joshua John on-loan for this season from FC Twente.