UEFA Champions League Preview: Chelsea, Real Madrid face tough road games

Napoli getty

 

If Real Madrid and Chelsea are to end Champions League heartbreak this season, getting off to a good start in difficult environments is crucial.

Real Madrid travel east to face off with CSKA Moscow in freezing temperatures. Jose Mourinho's men have been dominant in the Champions League this season but the weather combined with Moscow's infamous plastic pitch and a few key injuries makes the result far from predetermined. Real Madrid enjoy a 10-point lead in La Liga and can afford to go all-out for a difficult road game.

Chelsea, England's last real hope for a deep run in the Champions League, face the daunting task of getting a result in the San Paolo against Napoli. Manchester City, who are currently 17 points ahead of Chelsea in the Premier League table, were unable to get a result at the raucous ground and Chelsea are slumping at precisely the wrong time.

Here's a closer look at Tuesday's UCL matches:

CSKA MOSCOW VS. REAL MADRID

TV: Fox Soccer Channel, 12 p.m.

GROUP STAGE: You'd be hard-pressed to find a more dominant team in the group stages than Real Madrid. The Spanish giants were perfect against an admittedly weak group, winning all six games by a combined score of 19-2. CSKA Moscow squeaked into the second round on the final day as an upset over Inter Milan jumped them from fourth place to second in the group. Moscow was far from dominant, however, qualifying with eight points, joint lowest of all qualifiers.

THE LOWDOWN: CSKA Moscow are playing their first game since the conclusion of the group stages back on Dec. 7. The lingering rust might cancel out any advantage the home side might gain from the elements. Real Madrid have shown no signs of slowing down despite injuries to Lassana Diarra and Angel di Maria. A scored draw will put them in good position heading back to the Bernabeu and a win would effectively end the tie before the second leg.

NAPOLI VS. CHELSEA

TV: Fox Soccer Channel, 2:45 p.m.

GROUP STAGE: Chelsea stumbled to first position in Group E after less-than-convincing performances against teams they should have beaten easily. The Blues' most high-profile humiliation came in November with a 1-1 draw with Racing Genk. Napoli, on the other hand, survived the proverbial "Group of Death" with an impressive win over Manchester City and a draw with Bayern Munich. A solid defense allowed only two goals in three games at home.

THE LOWDOWN: Chelsea are a team reminiscent of a Ferrari in a snow storm. Regardless of how fast the wheels spin on the ice or how much noise the engine makes, the car goes nowhere. Didier Drogba's return could be the jolt of energy sorely missing from a team which was once looking to challenge for the title. John Terry's health will be a major factor as Chelsea's defense has been shaky in his absence. Napoli's firepower will likely come from Uruguayan striker Edinson Cavani, who has scored four goals in the Champions League this season. Marek Hamsik and Ezequiel Lavezzi join him up top to form one of the most potent attacking sides in Europe. Expect plenty of goals over the two legs.

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What do you think of tomorrow's games? Think Real Madrid and Chelsea can survive their away fixtures? Do you see CSKA Moscow pulling off the upset or Napoli holding serve at home?

Share your thoughts below.

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