Chelsea’s season underwent a complete turnaround after hiring Thomas Tuchel in January. Former manager Frank Lampard famously said Chelsea was a club “not ready to compete.” Yet four months after he was sacked, the Blues brought home their second UEFA Champions League title.
On Tuesday, the London club will kick off its title defense vs visiting Zenit St. Petersburg, who were the Russian League champions in 2020-21. Chelsea is a heavy soccer betting favorite at -525 and is widely expected to qualify for the round of 16 from Group H.
Game: Chelsea FC vs Zenit St. Petersburg
Location: Stamford Bridge, London, England
Date/Time: Tuesday, 3 p.m. ET
Head to Head
Despite both being Champions League regulars, these sides have never met.
Chelsea Aiming for Repeat
Chelsea is one of the most popular soccer picks to repeat as Champions League winners. The West Londoners are listed at +800 to win the competition and are -175 favorites to win Group H.
Group H also consists of Juventus, which has yet to win in its first three Serie A matches, and Swedish side Malmö.
Chelsea’s club-record signing, Romelu Lukaku, has hit the ground running in his second spell with the club. The Belgian international striker scored twice in Chelsea’s comfortable 3-0 win vs Aston Villa. With three wins and a draw from four matches, Chelsea is joint top of the English Premier League.
Tuchel’s Chelsea has looked like a well-oiled machine and recently held Liverpool to a 1-1 draw at Anfield despite being a man down. The penalty Mo Salah converted off of a blatant Reece James handball has been the only goal Chelsea has conceded this season.
It’s going to take a huge effort to knock off the Blues, who signed midfielder Saúl Ñíguez on-loan from Atlético Madrid on transfer deadline day.
Zenit Reflects on UCL Failures
Zenit has won the Russian Premier League for three consecutive seasons and started off its 2021-22 campaign in style. Zenit leads the league seven games in and is one of only two undefeated teams.
In its latest match, Zenit defeated Akhmat Grozny 3-1 as Brazilians Wendel and Malcom both got on the scoresheet.
Zenit sputtered out of last year’s Champions League in the Group Stage and failed to win a match. The Russians were an abysmal 0-5-1 in a group that consisted of Lazio, Dortmund and Club Brugge. A popular pick for betting online in Russian soccer, Zenit is a moonshot to win the Champions League at +25000 and a longshot to win Group H at +1200.
There are a few familiar faces on Zenit’s roster. Despite a host of criticism, captain and center back Dejan Lovren was a mainstay in Liverpool’s defense for a half-decade, winning a Premier League and Champions League title there.
Striker Artem Dzyuba is a prolific goal scorer and handful for defenses to contain, especially with his 6-foot-6 stature. Dzyuba has scored an impressive 30 goals in 55 appearances for the Russian national team.
Chelsea went an undefeated 4-0-2 in the Group Stage of the Champions League last season. Meanwhile, Zenit is looking for its first win in the Champions League since November 2019.
With Chelsea in such great form, it’s easy to see why Zenit is a +2000 underdog in the BetUS sportsbook. Chelsea hasn’t conceded from the run of play this season and I don’t think that’ll change when Zenit heads to London. While I think Chelsea will win and keep a clean sheet, the spread is wide at Chelsea -2.
The moneyline doesn’t necessarily present any value for Chelsea, so my pick of the match is for Zenit to fail to score.
Pick: Zenit Under ½ Goal (-145)