5 things to know about Group E in Champions League
It's between Basel and Schalke for the final spot in the last 16 of the Champions League from Group E. The teams meet on Wednesday with third-placed Schalke having to win to prevent Basel from joining Chelsea in qualifying from the group.
Top place is still up for grabs, although Chelsea can seal that by beating Steaua Bucharest at Stamford Bridge. Here are five things to know about the Group E matches:
NEW YEAR SALES: Basel has more at stake in Schalke than just advancing to the Champions League knockout rounds for the second time in three seasons. If the Swiss champions lose on Wednesday, widely admired young players Mohamed Salah and Fabian Schaer are likely to be prime targets for German and English clubs in the January transfer window.
Basel needs only a draw to advance and increase its chances of retaining players for a Champions League campaign and push for a fifth consecutive national title. Two years ago, Basel beat Manchester United in the last group match to advance instead of the English giant. By the time Basel played Bayern Munich in the last 16 in February, a deal was already agreed to sell winger Xherdan Shaqiri to the German side. Still, Shaqiri stayed for the rest of the season and, before leaving for the Bundesliga, Salah was recruited from Egypt to replace him. Salah's key goals in home-and-away wins against Chelsea have put him on many clubs' wish list.
SCHALKE UNCERTAINTY: Jens Keller's future is on the line after just a year as Schalke coach. Keller appears to have been under pressure since taking charge, and gained some breathing space only by securing Champions League qualification. Should Schalke be knocked out of the Champions League on Wednesday, Keller could be gone immediately or during the winter break.
Keller's reign has been marked by inconsistency, and the relatively expensively assembled side has not been able to put together a string of good performances. Schalke is sixth in the Bundesliga, already 17 points behind leader Bayern Munich. Werder Bremen's former longtime coach, Thomas Schaaf, has been touted as Keller's potential successor.
LEAKY CHELSEA: Chelsea is leaking goals domestically. The Blues have conceded 17 in the English Premier League, two more than in the whole of Jose Mourinho's first season in charge when the team won the 2004-05 title. Chelsea has conceded three goals in each of its last two league games: A 4-3 win over Sunderland was followed up a 3-2 loss at Stoke on Saturday.
''We've kept a lot of clean sheets this season, but in the last two games we've let too many goals in,'' defender Gary Cahill said. ''That's unlike us and it's down to individual mistakes. We talked about it after Sunderland and there were unfortunate incidents at the set-pieces. We've had a look at it and they were not major, major mistakes. Maybe it's just a bit of bad luck but obviously, away from home, we've got to keep it tight.''
FORWARD FLOPS: Chelsea's problems are not only at the back, as the strikers are also misfiring. Fernando Torres, Demba Ba and Samuel Eto'o did not manage a shot on target at Stoke, and they have scored only four goals between them in the league and five in the Champions League. ''The strikers try their best, so I don't know what to do,'' Mourinho said.
STEAUA'S SLIDE: It's over for Steaua Bucharest in Europe this season, with no way of climbing off bottom place to qualify for the Europa League.