Michael Ballack makes a sentimental return to London with Bayer 04 Leverkusen to face Chelsea FC knowing his former club have an auspicious record in the UEFA Champions League group stage.
Chelsea, who are making their tenth attempt to lift the trophy and are under new management again with the arrival of André Villas-Boas after he guided FC Porto to last season’s UEFA Europa League crown, have finished as group winners in six of their last eight campaigns. In addition they qualified for the knockout rounds in the other two years.
For the first competitive meeting between the teams, Chelsea can take heart from their record against German visitors. In five previous home encounters the Premier League side have still to taste defeat, winning four and drawing one.
In only one of those fixtures did their opponents manage to score, the 2004/05 UEFA Champions League quarter-final when FC Bayern München struck twice in a 4-2 defeat. Ballack scored a penalty for Bayern in that game and was then on target, also from the spot, for Chelsea against SV Werder Bremen in a group stage fixture in September 2006.
Chelsea also defeated German opposition to win the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup final in May 1998, Gianfranco Zola scoring the only goal against VfB Stuttgart in Solna.
Leverkusen, in the UEFA Champions League for the first time since 2004/05, have not won in their seven visits to England. They gained a draw last time out, 0-0 at Blackburn Rovers FC in the 2006/07 UEFA Cup group stage, but lost five of the previous six games. The German side have only won two of 15 fixtures with English sides, losing nine.
Chelsea have won seven of their nine matchday one fixtures, running out 4-1 victors at MŠK Žilina last season. They won all three home games in the group and finished with a three-point advantage over Olympique de Marseille. In the knockout rounds they overcame FC København thanks to a 2-0 win at Stamford Bridge but then bowed out to Manchester United FC 3-1 on aggregate in the quarter-finals, losing 1-0 at home and 2-1 away. That prevented them achieving a sixth UEFA Champions League semi-final appearance in eight years. The United defeat was the Blues’ second at home in six UEFA Champions League fixtures. Before going down at home to FC Internazionale Milano in the 2009/10 round of 16 the London club were unbeaten in 21 games at Stamford Bridge in the competition, including 15 victories.
This is Leverkusen‘s seventh participation in the competition. In their latest group campaign seven years ago, last season’s Bundesliga runners-up lost 4-2 at FC Dynamo Kyiv before drawing 1-1 at both AS Roma and Real Madrid CF, finishing top of the group with 11 points. They failed to progress from the round of 16, however, losing 3-1 both home and away against Liverpool FC.