By 90Min
September 19, 2018

Chelsea start their Europa League campaign with a trip to Greece to face PAOK Thessaloniki in the Toumba stadium on Thursday night.

Maurizio Sarri's side are red hot favourites to take three points back to London, after a flawless start to the Premier League season. However, goals look to be on the cards for the neutral.

Currently the top scorer of the Premier League, Eden Hazard will be looking to hit the back of the net after a hat-trick last week against Cardiff City, while PAOK have managed a goal every fifty-two minutes on average this season, with five in their first three games in the Greek Super League. 

Though the two sides have never met in a UEFA competition previously, PAOK are unbeaten by English opposition, while Chelsea have never lost to a Greek team. 

After the Greeks disappointing loss to Benfica which sent them crashing out of the Champions League qualifiers, they'll be hungry for a European win, regardless of the size of their opponent.

Here's everything you need to know about this one.


Recent Form:

Both teams remain unbeaten in their respective leagues so far in 2018/19.

PAOK have picked up three wins from three and sit fifth on goal difference, while Chelsea's immaculate five from five under Sarri's sees them sit atop the Premier League.

SL Benfica v PAOK - UEFA Champions League Play Off

The Greek side finished runners-up in the Super League last season but crashed out of the Champions League qualifiers to Benfica, losing 1-4 at home after holding the Portuguese giants to a 1-1 draw in Lisbon.


Team News:

Chelsea's injury woes appear insignificant, as the loss of fringe stars like Ruben Loftus-Cheek has done little to hinder their form they'll hope to take into the Europa League. Mateo Kovačić appears as though he may be rested for the game after suffering a knock during the Cardiff tie. Cesc Fabregas and Emerson are the only other doubts for Sarri.


The Blues manager is likely to rotate his side to keep key players fresh for the upcoming Liverpool clash.

On the contrary, PAOK are missing Brazilian Leo Matos through suspension, after he was sent off against Benfica.

Serbian forward Aleksandar Prijović, who caught the attention of several foreign clubs last season after bagging 27 in all competitions, is another minor doubt over fitness issues.

MB Media/GettyImages

Predicted Lineups:

Chelsea: Kepa; Zappacosta, Christensen, Cahill, Alonso, Kante, Barkley, Willian, Hazard, Morata.

PAOK: Paschalakis; Varela, Crespo, Matos, Vieirinha, Canas, Mauricio, Jaba, El Kaddouri, Biseswar, Karelis.


Prediction:

Though the Greeks may put up a valiant fight, a comfortable Chelsea win seems inevitable - even in the likely event that several of the Blues regular first team stars will be benched due to an upcoming Liverpool tie. 


Predicted score: PAOK 0-4 Chelsea

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