Chelsea: a semi-shambles in the Premier League this season but still solid chuggers in the Champions League (as long as you don't mention Genk away). Leverkusen are efficient at home in the Champions League though and have beaten the likes of Real Madrid, Roma and, yes, Genk at home in the competition. Leverkusen are in decent form in the Bundesliga too and won their away fixture at Kaiserslautern 2-0 at the weekend.
Anyway, you'll want some team news. David Luiz starts ahead of Alex in defence and Torres sits on the bench. Ashley Cole is injured and Bosingwa will take his place. Haven't seen the TV pictures yet but both Cech and Ballack are likely to wear masks due to facial injuries, the match could end up like Eyes Wide Shut, but with more convincing sexual chemistry between the leading duo.
Bayer Leverkusen: Leno, Schwaab, Friedrich, Toprak, Kadlec, Bender, Rolfes, Castro, Ballack, Sam, Kiessling. Subs: Giefer, Reinartz, Oczipka, Schurrle, Ortega, Derdiyok, Jorgensen.
Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovic, Luiz, Terry, Bosingwa, Lampard, Meireles, Ramires, Sturridge, Drogba, Mata. Subs: Turnbull, Torres, Mikel, Malouda, McEachran, Kalou, Alex.
Referee: Viktor Kassai (Hungary)
The players are walking through Leverkusen's well-appointed lobby. Drogba is wearing massive earphones, Torres – as befits his lowly status – still has the free white ones you get with your iPod.
"I'm home for Thanksgiving and VERY excited to be able to indulge in an MBM again," writes Linda Howard, very plainly and with no amusing embellishments of tone or pitch. "I've been having to live stream all matches for months now so I always have to read the MBM later and muse on what inane thing I would've emailed in if I only had more than one computer. My favorite part is finding out how I sound to the MBMer. Do I 'parp', 'guffaw', 'whinge', 'bark'? Lordy, I've missed this!"
"Without invoking PlayStation (TM), etc., can anyone explain the rationale for continuing to include David Luiz/Sideshow Bob (in more ways than one) while leaving out Alex," asks Lou Roper. Well, Andre Villas-Boas reckons David Luiz will be one of the best centre-backs in the world one day. The problem is, he doesn't specify when that will be. In the next two decades hopefully.
I should point out Chelsea are through if they win tonight.
1 min: And we're off. "Are Batman masks the new snoods," says Oliver Lewis. "See both teams have one now, surely it's only a matter of time before they're used purely for fashion." The odd thing is that Batman has stopped wearing his mask and has started wearing a Chelsea-branded snood. He's apprehended exactly zero muggers since and most people now know he's Bruce Wayne.
3 min: Good old Luiz, you always know what you'll get. His first touch is a feew yards outside his own area and he passes to a Leverkusen player. This should be good.
5 min: Leverkusen have spent the entire match in Chelsea's half so far. On the plus side David Luiz just cleared without pinging it into his own net or causing the meltdown of the European econo... Oh, hang on ... David! "According to the ITV commentary team, everyone has an opinion on Chelsea at the moment," says Andrew Kirby. I think they're kind of OK. "Mine is, please keep hold of AVB. It's nice to consistently hear the age of 34 being described as young..."
7 min: Drogba tests Leno, Leverkusen's 7-year-old goalkeeper, but it's dragged across goal and no Chelsea players are near enough to get a touch. So actually he doesn't test him at all. Sorry.
9 min: Great atmosphere in the ground, once again showing what a brilliant place Germany is to watch football. Shame I'm watching it on the telly but my point stands, just about.
12 min: Castro has been a dangerous presence so far, with little stabs foward. Other than that both sides are checking each other out at the moment. Valencia are 1-0 up in the other fixture in the group. "How many times this evening will you accidentally type 'David Lutz'," asks Ben Stanley. Before you wrote me that email? None. Now? Loads.
14 min: Sturridge in some space on the right, does a few step-overs in the box and sends a dangerous cross into the six-yard box that Leno does well to cling on to. "Regarding Batman and his snood, surely it's only a matter of time before he goes back to the mask and the Dark Knight returns," zings Luke Crane.
16 min: Valencia are now 2-0 up against Genk. But Genk are very bad. Schwaab buzzes dangerously around the box and finds Ballack but in the hour it takes him to turn and shoot, Chelsea block the shot.
18 min: Luiz is lead off after a knock, but should be OK to carry on once he gets his breath back."I always felt, and your picture backs it up, that when La Kidman allows a little natural curl in her hair, she has a look of Micky Hazard about her," says Gary Naylor. "Should I get out more?" Micky Hazard should get out more, he could bag himself a film star.
21 min: More good work from Sturridge, almost playing Mata in with a ball that slices through the middle of the Leverkusen defence. "Anyone else giggle when the keeper caught the ball and Townsend said 'Really safe Han(d)s'," says Jack Duncton. "No, just me then" Hmmm. I may have snorted slightly.
24 min: Kadlec clatters Sturridge, he didn't need to, but he's got Leverkusen worried. "I agree on the atmopshere at German grounds," says Andrew Kirby. "Was at the BayArena for the Big Cup Semi Final 01-02 and it was red hot. Which only served to make me more nervous seeing as though I'd sneaked into the ground through the hotel which backs onto the stand (despite Ron Atkinson doing his best to trip me up)."
26 min: Ballacks's ball nearly finds Kiessling, who's lurking about 10-yards out, but Luiz intercepts.
29 min: Ivanovic concedes a corner, it's pinged into the box and just misses an outstretched hand - couldn't see if it belonged to a Chelsea or Leverkusen player.
31 min: Sturridge – who else? – wins a free-kick about 35-yards out. He hits a dipping free-kick but the bounce is easy and the ball sits up into Leno's loving arms.
33 min: John Terry does one of those last-ditch John Terry stretches to cut out a Leverkusen cross. But Leverkusen are soon back and Ballack beats Cech with a looping header and it bounces off the bar.
36 min: Leverkusen are getting into a rhythm. First Ballacks's cross sails across the box and then his pass is a bit too strong for Kiessling. Nothing has amounted from their attacks but they're becoming more regular.
39 min:Kiessling is booked after a spot of discourse with the referee about whether particles really can travel faster than light. Or maybe he was complaining aout what he thought was a dive from Bosingwa. Drogba then rounds Leno but he takes it too wide and shoots a yard or so over.
41 min: Kadlec is booked for handball after Sturridge knocks it past him. May have been a tad harsh. not sure how much Kadlec knew about it. Anyway, Mata has the free-kick around 25-yards out. It curls in and four or five Chelsea players gof or the header but Leno flies out and punches clear.
44 min: Drogba prods forward to Sturridge, who flicks it to Mata. For a moment it looks like it's going to be a wonderful goal capped off with a crashing volley but it isn't hit cleanly and Leno gathers ... just about. Thirty seconds later Lampard shoots a tad too high. Chelsea are finishing the half very well. Ballack is booked for dissent.
Half time: The last act of the half is a corner for Leverkusen. Friedrich wins the header but Chelsea clear. A decent half from Chelsea who, once they realised this isn't the Premier League, grew in confidence. Sturridge in particular has been excellent. >"The German footy site kicker.de reports that this is Tom Cruise's, er, Michael Ballack's 100th European match." says Peter Oh. "Schürrle Leverkusen will knick a win to mark Ballack's century? Instead of trading shirts, Ballack could exchange masks with Cech."
46 min: We're off again. In the other group game it's Valencia 4-0 Genk. "Chelsea had more of the game towards the end of the half now they've cut off the means of distribution (Castro) in the centre of the park," says Andrew Kirby. Moral's a bit low: for the crime of buying a new shirt at the weekend, I've been pilloried today, variously described as "looking like a banana in a bean bag", "effing [not effing but a word like effing] ridiculous" and "like someone out of a grunge band but not one of the good ones, someone like Mudhoney".
48 min: On the ITV commentary, Andy Townsend points out that Leverkusen will be guaranteed a place in the last 16 if they draw tonight and beat Genk in the last game (pretty easy) which may explain their cautious approach so far. Hang on ...
GOAL!!!!! Leverkusen 0-1 Chelsea (Drogba 48) Leverkusen may need to attack more now. Sturridge curls the ball into the box but Drogba has plenty to do and has to hold off a defender while turning and shooting low into the corner. Brilliant stuff.
52 min: Leverkusen come back - they have to after that goal and win a corner. Cech gathers though. Baby steps ... "Mudhoney were the good ones, surely," says Oliver Pattenden. Prexactly, that's what I said, which makes me think their shirt opinions are dubious.
54 min: The game's much more open now that Leverkusen are mounting the occasional account. Lampard plays a lovely pass with the outside of his foot but Drogba is offside, Sturridge who could have reached it wasn't. "Kudos for the Eyes Wide Shut picture," says Ryan Dunne." I maintain that it holds up tremendously well (second rate Kubrick is still better than most anything else, c.f. Scorcese citing it as one of his movies of the decade, and noting that The Shining, Clockwork Orange, 2001 all followed the pattern of sniffy initial reviews follows by glacial realisation of their genius). In regards to Thanksgiving, does anyone else think it would be cool if Starbucks did a one day only Turkey Latte to celebrate the occasion? I'd try one." I have tried one.
56 min: Ivanovic is booked for a foul. Leverkusen bring on Schurrle for Schwaab, an attacking substitution.
59 min: Lovely stuff from Ballack. An overhead kick brings a save from Cech but better is to come: Ballack has a chance two yards out but Cech saves at his feet - a brilliant, brave save. "I think I've solved the enigma that is David Luiz. His wikipedia page says he can play as a central defender and as a left-back," trumpets Harvey Kelly. "Just putting it out there, but has anyone at Chelsea actually told him he's supposed to be playing as a centre-back? Or is he playing both positions at the same time?"
61 min: One-nil to Cech in the battle of the masks then. Leverkusen continue to press and Kiessling heads into Cech's arms. "Wouldn't a Turkey Latte taste like like fairly unpleasant cold turkey," says Robin Hazlehurst. "Making it rather more appropriate for the day after Thanksgiving I would have thought."
62 min: Now this is more like the Premier League Chelsea we know and love. They give the ball away before a last-minute hack from Bosingwa clears the lines.
65 min: Sturridge breaks and runs half the length of the pitch before being held up by a couple of Leverkusen players. A couple of step-overs win him time and space and his shot is well saved by Leno.
66 min: Malouda on for Mata. "Never mind turkey coffee, Ryan Dunne, tomorrow I'm going to secretly dye my in-laws' Thanksgiving turkey the brightest red, white, and blue I can find," says Justin Kavanagh. "Why? Because if Americans can pollute Guinness with green goo every St. Patrick's day, they should know how it feels to have their holiday sustenance sabotaged!"
69 min: Corner to Leverkusen. Cech, excellent so far, gathers well. "Woah, woah, woah. What was wrong with Mudhoney (46 min). Better than the unforgiveably overhyped Pearl Jam," cries Phil Sawyer. You're not the first person to nominate Pearl Jam. "Anyway, on to more pressing matters. I'm confused. Is it Cech or Ballack who falls into a lava pit and requires rebuilding by droids?" I think it's David Luiz who needs rebuilding. Oh, he's off for Alex. The rebuilding starts now.
71 min: Derdiyok on for Kadlec. "Mention of The Shining made me flash on a mental image of ABV in The Overlook Hotel typing 'All pressing and no space makes Roman an unhappy boy' over and over and over again," says Gary Naylow, whose ming works in mysterious way. I'm not suggesting he's God by the way. "It's not going to happen - is it?"
71 min: Meireles is booked for a high challenge. Leno spills a shot but Chelsea's follow-up flashes across goal"Speaking of turkeys and American culinary quirks, sensible Brits and Ryan Dunne might be aghast to learn that a legendary American variation of the traditional Thanksgiving turkey is the 'turducken'," says Peter Oh. "Yes, that would be a chicken, stuffed inside a duck, stuffed inside a turkey."
GOAL!!!!! Leverkusen 1-1 Chelsea (Derdiyok 72) Oh. Leverkusen play two balls across the Chelsea defence and Derdiyok finishes with a neat header from Sam's cross.
75 min: Will Leverkusen sit back now? As it stands Chelsea need to draw with Valencia on the final day of the group. "We at the States don't put green in Guiness- that would be pointless," says Dave Hill. "They put green in Harps which is bad enough, but the real travesty is putting green in Budweiser- making the taste abomination a sight one as well."
78 min: Appeals for a Chelsea penalty – turned down – after Drogba goes down in the area. The Leverkusen defender looked suspiciously guilty there. At the other end Derdiyok's shot whistles wide.
80 min: Word is that the Drogba appeal looked a pretty strong penalty. Meireles is off for John Obi Mikel. "Lot of work making a Turducken, Tom," warns Richard Tucker. "You have to debone the birds first which is time consuming and then there's the cost, it's an expensive undertaking." Imagine how the poor bird that's stuffed inside nine other bird feels.
82 min: Ivanovic gets Leno's knees to his ribs as they both go for a ball in the area. He's OK to carry on though. "Green Guinness sounds really scary, because you would need so much green to mask that black that you're basically talking 3/4 of a pint of green paint with a dribble of stout," shivers Robin Hazlehurst. "Turning Budweiser green should be easy - it is basically just wee so needs just a hint of blue colour to mix with the yellow and make green." Oczipka is on for Kiessling.
85 min: Ivanovic finds Malouda – Leverkusen should probably have cut it out – and his ball ends up on Drogba's toes. He slashes wide though. "Of course the Turducken isn't complete unless deep-fried," says Matt Turner. "And if you're smart and lucky enough you'll chuck the thing in the oil while still frozen and create an expolsive conflagration in your garage. Because abomination and hellfire are meant to be together..."
88 min: Sam tumbles on the edge of the area but the ref waves play on.
90 min: "Can't believe that I've lived to 32 and never heard of a Turducken," sobs Ryan Dunne. "One imagines that they would be majestic deep-fried. Although surely there's no reason one can't have a ,say,pigeon before the turkey and stick the whole thing into a Ostrich?" Castro's cross is blocked and Leverkusen have a corner. Hmmm, that looks dangerous ...
GOAL!!!!!! Leverkusen 2-1 Chelsea (Friedrich 90) Friedrich wins the header among a sea of blkue shirts and lonks the header home. Alex should have cleared that. Where's Luiz when you need him?
Full-time: What a turnaround. Chelsea lose their fourth game in their last seven. The good news is that they still have their fate in their own hands – they're through if they beat Valencia at home – but would you trust Chelsea at the moment (the answer is NO). "Matt Turner cooks in his garage," splutters Phil Sawyer. "He does realise you're not supposed to use Castrol as your cooking oil?"
Omens for the final group game: Valencia have won 7 (seven, six plus one, loads of goals)-0 against Genk. Here's the group table as it stands.