AUTHOR: Star Sports Content


An excellent piece of advice for football teams is ‘Start as you mean to go on’ and Chelsea have made an excellent start to the season. Maurizio Sarri has taken on a big job, but the former Napoli man has plenty to work with and the Blues have hit the ground running with five wins from five games in the Premier League.

The latest of those was a 4-1 win where Eden Hazard, who has been rejuvenated by the presence of Sarri, scored a hat-trick, and the mood around Stamford Bridge is high.

The mood is also high at PAOK, who grabbed their European football ticket thanks to the late collapse of Olympiakos last season. They made a bold bid to get into the Champions League as well, beating Basel and Spartak Moscow – two regulars in the Champions League – before they then collapsed at home against Benfica 4-1 in the second leg. They have also won every single domestic game so far, a sign that they are ready to challenge for the spot of Greece’s top dogs after successive cup triumphs too.

That they managed to draw in Portugal is a credit to them and a reminder that this isn’t going to be a straightforward task for Chelsea, who have an important London Derby with West Ham on Sunday.

Sarri is not likely to treat the tournament with disdain – Chelsea won the Europa League in 2013 after winning the Champions League the season before that – but he will surely make changes and already he has said that Eden Hazard will be amongst those rested.

That said, there’s strength in depth at the Blues and Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Ethan Ampadu and Callum Hudson-Odoi are huge young talents with drive on the ball. There’s more experience in Cesc Fabregas, Ross Barkley and Alvaro Morata to give Chelsea plenty of go forward, and the best angle could be goals.

PAOK v Chelsea
Europa League, 17:55
Live on BT Sport Extra

(Maximum 10 matches)
First meeting between teams.

Sarri’s sides have only one way of playing and whilst impressive in attack Chelsea have been open at the back. Over 2.5 goals could be a realistic runner with three of PAOK’s four competitive home featuring at least three goals, while four of Chelsea’s last five matches have seen three or more goals.

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