Chelsea needs to step up to occasion vs. Shakhtar


LONDON (AP) -Chelsea stepped up when it really mattered in last season's Champions League and the English team needs to rise to the occasion against Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday to stay on course to defend the trophy.

A 2-1 loss to the Ukrainian side two weeks ago left Chelsea in danger of becoming the first reigning champion to miss out on qualifying from the group stage.

"We need a perfect game tomorrow night," Chelsea manager Roberto di Matteo said. "Every individual player going on the pitch has to perform at the highest of their ability ... we have good players in our ranks and when they manage to perform at their best we are a very strong team."

Chelsea is second in the standings - three points behind Shakhtar and one clear of Juventus - with three matches remaining, including a trip to Turin to play Juve still to come.

"Our defensive organisation has been good," Di Matteo said. "We've had defensive mistakes but when we're fully focused we're a very good team."

Fresh from seeing its 49-match unbeaten domestic run end on Saturday, Juventus is home to bottom-place FC Nordsjaelland and will expect nothing less than three points against the Danish minnow.

"It had to happen sooner or later," Juve goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon said. "If we lose once every 50 matches, we'll be OK."

The pressure is piled on Chelsea, which was soundly beaten in Donetsk in what was its first loss of the campaign. But the team thrived in adversity en route to the title last season.

In Di Matteo's first match in charge, the Londoners overturned at Stamford Bridge a two-goal deficit from the first leg against Napoli to reach the last eight.

They then somehow scraped past Barcelona in the semifinals despite being overrun in both legs before upsetting the odds in the final, played at Bayern's stadium.

Chelsea's home form in the Champions League has been superb - it hasn't lost there in the group stage since October 2003 when Besiktas, led by current Shakhtar coach Mircea Lucescu, won 2-0. That's a span of 27 games.

"At Stamford Bridge, it'll be a different game (to Donetsk)," he said. "Because, obviously, we are very strong at home and it'll be different.

"Certainly, the early goal we conceded was a big factor, especially for them, because it allowed them to then play on the counter-attack, rather than have to maybe be a little bit offensive."

Chelsea lost its lead in the Premier League on Saturday, and has won only one of its last four matches in all competitions.

John Terry is available again after a domestic ban for racially abusing an opponent but Juan Mata and David Luiz are injury doubts.

Led by its Brazilian stars, Shakhtar has won all 14 of its matches in the Ukrainian league and is unbeaten in the Champions League, too.

Shakhtar forward Eduardo said after the victory over Chelsea his team is respected more in Europe.

"We showed in the first match against Chelsea that we could beat a serious opponent," he said. "Now we must play our style of football exactly the same way in attack on the road.

"I think that should heavily push Chelsea forward then we'll have good chances to score on the counterattack. It's paramount to take advantage of those opportunities.

Juventus was beat 3-1 by Inter Milan at the weekend to end its long undefeated run in Serie A, which stretched back to May 2011.

"We need to turn the page and move on now," said Juventus assistant coach Angelo Alessio, who is filling in on the touchline while Antonio Conte serves out a four-month ban for match-fixing, stemming from when he coached Siena two seasons ago.

It was Juve's first loss in Juventus Stadium, which opened last season. The team has drawn all three matches in the Champions League, the latest being a 1-1 score at Nordsjaelland.

Copyright 2016 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.

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