First things first, and the chances of a Tevez style meltdown in the Mestalla tonight are slim. And here's why: supersub Frank Lampard, reportedly not best pleased at being benched against Swansea City at the weekend, is back in the Chelsea starting line-up. So that's another potential toys-from-pram-in-parabolic-arc scenario averted, then. Unless Andre Villas-Boas is planning to haul him off after ten minutes, just to prove a point. The money you'd pay to see that, eh?
The feelgood vibe is also glowing Readybrek-style around Juan Mata, who returns to meet his former mates early doors in his Chelsea career. Fernando Torres might not be quite so happy to be here - he's never won a club match at Valencia - but he has won here in a Spain shirt. And anyway, he's currently playing very well indeed, if you ignore the odd open-goal miss and reckless tackle. Which you should, because he is.
Just as well, as this will be a proper test for Chelsea. Valencia gave Barcelona a proper run for their money here last week, in a glorious 2-2 draw. They went on to lose 1-0 at Sevilla at the weekend, admittedly, but had made six changes. They're currently seventh in the La Liga table, two points off the leaders Real Betis, one behind Barca, and level with Real Madrid. All of which qualifies as Not So Bad.
Kick off: 7.45pm BST.
This is the Valencia side which almost did for Barcelona the other week: Diego Alves, Miguel, Rami, Victor Ruiz, Jordi Alba, Ever, Albelda, Pablo, Canales, Mathieu, Soldado.
Subs: Guaita, Bruno, Maduro, Jonas, Feghouli, Piatti, Parejo.
The aforementioned Frank Lampard, winger Florent Malouda, and old-school slapstick turn David Luiz are all back for Chelsea: Cech, Bosingwa, Luiz, Terry, Cole, Ramires, Mikel, Lampard, Malouda, Torres, Mata.
Subs: Turnbull, Ivanovic, Romeu, Drogba, Meireles, Kalou, Anelka.
Observations, ruminations, sounds produced by the propulsion of a stream of air through a small aperture: Nicola Rizzoli (Italy).
The teams are out. Valencia in their white shirts and black shorts, Chelsea in all blue. The patrons of the Estadi de Mestalla whip up an atmosphere for their arrival.
And we're off! Chelsea get the ball rolling. It's not long before they lose it, though, allowing Valencia to stroke it around the back awhile.
2 min: Mathieu ambles down the left, getting nowhere. Up the other end, Malouda storms down the inside-left channel and finds Cole on the wing, but the move fizzles out timidly.
3 min: What a chance for Torres, who picks up a loose ball in the middle of the Valencia half and tears towards the area. He takes a heavy touch, though, pushing himself a wee bit to the left, allowing Rami to come over and challenge. Both players collide in the area, falling to the turf. That could easily have been a penalty, it was very clumsy indeed by Rami, but Torres doesn't claim, perhaps because he was no longer in full control. Very fair of him, but very odd, because I've seen those given more often than not.
5 min: A strong start by Chelsea, this. Malouda stabs an effort goalwards from the edge of the area. It's weak, allowing Victor Ruiz to intercept, but the Valencia defender nearly scores an own goal, poking the ball just wide left of the target. I have no idea what he was trying to achieve there.
7 min: From the resulting corner, Diego Alves makes a rare old song and dance of dealing with Lampard's dead ball. He's not far from punching it into his own net, like some sort of clown. Valencia fail to clear their lines, Cole eventually having a shot from the edge of the area. Diego Alves deals with that one without making any nod to the circus. This is impressive stuff from Chelsea. Valencia look shaky so far, misplacing a lot of passes.
10 min: Valencia calm it all down a bit with a few passes around the back. Suddenly they break forward, Ever Banega slipping a clever pass down the left wing to release Jordi Alba, whose cross is dealt with by Cech. That may settle the home side, the best move of the match so far.
12 min: Beautiful play from Soldado and Pablo Hernandez down the right, the pair executing a one-two with a pair of backheels. Soldado can't find a team-mate in the middle, despite having an aeon to hit his cross. But what a move.
14 min: Victor Ruiz hasn't had a particularly impressive start, and now he's booked for tugging the rampaging Ramires back by the arm. The Chelsea midfielder was haring towards the box in space, but Jordi Alba was coming across to cover, so it's only a yellow. Lampard takes the free kick, a low fizzer that's dealt with easily enough by Diego Alves.
17 min: A period of relative calm. Valencia are enjoying most of the possession, but are doing very little with it. Chelsea seem happy enough with this state of affairs. Here's Mario Rustan on why Torres didn't claim for a penalty early on: "I think Torres is quite nervous tonight. Score once and misses an empty goal. Score twice and gets ejected. Score thrice and creates the legendary own-goal, perhaps by a header from the opposition's half."
21 min: Soldado tears down the left. The ball's shuttled right across to the other side of the field, where Miguel arrives out of nowhere to attempt a Carlos Alberto. The shot's scuffed, and deflected wide right. No cut-price version of Brazil's fourth in the 1970 World Cup final to see here. From the corner, another corner. From that, nothing. We move on.
23 min: A corner for Chelsea from the left. On the edge of the area, Ramires tries to get on the end of it, but is caught on the shin by Miguel. A strange one: it looks like a common-or-garden clip, but the player rolls around in a lot of very obvious pain. Looks like he'll be OK after a fashion, but that's obviously stung.
25 min: From the left, Jordi Alba whips a low ball towards the edge of the six-yard area, level with the near post. Pablo Hernandez whips a first-time shot into the side netting. Chelsea were sleeping a bit there. "Am watching Marseille versus Dortmund and wondered if the same absenteeism is apparent among the crowd at your game as here," asks Ian Copestake. "It's like a sympathy walkout for Tevez has occured en masse." Plenty of empty seats here at the Mestalla, yes. It's almost as though the entire continent has worked out that the group stages of the Champions League are, on the whole, a complete non-event. Unseeded knockout from the start, please!
28 min: Valencia are getting a fair bit of joy down the left flank, a facsimile copy of their recent game with Barcelona. Jordi Alba is spending as much time near Chelsea's goal as his own, and here he whips a lethal high ball through the six-yard box. Cech isn't convincing, grasping at thin air as it sails over his head and nearly plants itself into the top-right corner. Happily for Chelsea, the ball sails past the goalframe and out of play on the right wing.
31 min: Canales scoops a lovely pass from the centre of the park out wide right to Soldado. Ever Banega gets involved, and a few pretty triangles are strung together before the ball's eventually lost. Chelsea aren't seeing much of the ball at the moment, the home side with the upper hand at the moment.
33 min: Soldado breaks clear into the area after a long pass down the inside-right channel takes the entire Chelsea defence out of play. He's this much offside, though. A good line held by Chelsea, but that was close, they're playing a dangerous game there.
35 min: Not a good moment for Chelsea's old guard there. Cole tries a clever pass inside from the left, but it's nowhere near a team-mate and Ever Banega picks the ball up. He rolls it under his studs, which deceives Lampard, sliding in. Lampard gets up and executes another sliding tackle; another dragback sees him skittering around on his buttocks in no man's land yet again. That was almost poignant. But do not go gentle into that good night, Frank. Rage! Rage!
39 min: Mata, who has been very quiet, takes a whack from distance, just to the right of goal. Deflection, corner. From which the ball finds Torres on the edge of the area. The striker nearly finds Ramires free in the middle with a looped header, but the midfielder's offside. "The attendances for group games in Valencia and elsewhere have often been poor," writes Martin Peters, we're assuming not that one, of Valencia. "But it's not all of Europe who stay away from these games. Old Trafford, the Alliance Arena, Bernabeu, Camp Nou usually get capacity or near-capacity crowds, as do a lot of Scandinavian grounds, Holland and so on. It's really only Italy and Spain which let the side down, as it were, on such occasions."
42 min: A lovely cross from Bosingwa down the right, but there's nobody in Chelsea blue to attack the ball. Here's why: Torres has been dumped onto the floor by Rami in the centre circle, popped right on his backside, all the basic rules of comedy observed. Torres sits on the turf waving his hands around in the air. He's not happy.
44 min: Pablo Hernandez writhes on the floor after having his face brushed lightly by Malouda's hand. Come along, up we get. Then Ramires goes down under a challenge from Victor Ruiz in the Valencia box, but it was the softest of touches, and the referee quite rightly isn't having a bar of it. This has been a decent half of football, all in all, but it's fizzling out in a rather pathetic fashion.
HALF TIME: Valencia 0-0 Chelsea. Luiz clatters into Jordi Alba down the left, just outside the area. He's really not that convincing at all, is Luiz. That wasn't good. Ever Banega sends the free kick straight into the arms of Cech. Soon after, the ball's coming back at Chelsea, Pablo Hernandez hitting a very crisp shot on the turn from the edge of the D, Cech handling very well indeed. And that's that for the half.
HALF-TIME ADVERTISING BREAK:
[Guardian disclaimer: other coronary-inducing hot sandwiches are available]
Small moan about ITV (No 478 in a series of 349,549,823): Professional Jovial Midlander Adrian Chiles, to give him his full name, asks Martin O'Neill if he knows what the hell Valencia coach Unai Emery is doing with all his elaborate hand signals. O'Neill quite rightly can't be bothered with this risible nonsense, and all but tells Chiles to stop being so bloody ridiculous. ITV then run the montage. "What's he doing? What does it mean? I don't know!" mugs Chiles, over footage of Emery pointing to the left, then later to the right, and at one point holding up three fingers. Well, to answer your question, Adrian: left, right, three. These are universal gestures. Your riff doesn't work. I miss Bob Wilson.
Chiles having run through all his stand-up routines, we're off again! Jordi Alba is quickly off down the left, and wins himself a corner. Nowt comes of it. Malouda races off up the other end. Once he enters the Valencia half, looking to skip clear into space down the right, Albelda comes over and clips him gently to the ground. He earns himself a booking for that cynical foul.
49 min: Torres goes off down the middle after a clever ball from Bosingwa, but he's nudged off the ball by Rami. Great defending, because the striker was looking to break clear there. Ian Copestake would like to add a caveat to the entry of 42 mins: "Torres has not been happy since 2009."
52 min: Both teams could have scored within a few seconds. Bosingwa crosses from the right, Torres meets the ball eight yards out with a brilliant and powerful header towards the bottom-right corner, but Diego Alves saves at full stretch. That was outstanding play all round. Then, down the other end, Soldado waits to head a right-wing cross into the net from six yards, but the ball's deflected out of his road at the last.
53 min: Wow, it's all action this now. First Mathieu cuts inside from the left and sends a low fizzer goalwards. Cech smothers. Up the other end, Ramires breaks clear down the inside-right channel and into the area, but his attempted dink over the keeper is parried by Diego Alves. Then, a few more seconds on, Mata clips a little pass inside from the right for Torres, who is one on one with the keeper! He hits a decent shot goalwards, but somehow Diego Alves makes another wonder save.
54 min: And another amazing save by Diego Alves, this time from his own man, Victor Ruiz, who contorts himself at the right-hand post and sends the ball sailing towards his own goal. Again the keeper smothers.
56 min: LAMPARD RAGES AGAINST THE DYING OF THE LIGHT. Valencia 0-1 Chelsea. If any goal had been coming, it was this one. No heroics from Diego Alves this time, as Malouda reaches the byline on the right and pulls a low ball back into the area, Lampard coming in from the left and hammering a first-time low shot into the bottom-left corner from 12 yards out.
59 min: A not-quite-instant-but-instant-enough reaction to the goal by Unai Emery, who replaces Mathieu with Pablo Piatti.
60 min: Chelsea are looking very strong now. Mata dances down the inside-left channel, past one, two and three challenges, before flicking the ball out to Cole, who hits a low cross into the centre. The ball's hacked clear, with Torres lurking. The Mestalla is very quiet at present, which will be John Cage-like music to Chelsea's ears.
62 min: Piatti scoots clear down the right, then finds Pablo Hernandez in the middle on the edge of the area. But the Valencia man miscontrolls, the ball Heskeying off his shin. Mikel casually wanders off with it, whistling.
64 min: Soldado - who nearly broke into the box a couple of minutes ago but, er, didn't - wins a corner down the right. Rami meets the set piece with a free header, eight yards out in the middle, but he can't get any power on the ball and a poor effort sails wide left. Signs, though, that the shock of conceding the goal is already out of their system.
65 min: Space for Ever Banega down the inside-left channel. The player sashays into the area, twisting and turning, but just as it looks like he's got time to get a hopeful shot on target, he makes one twiddle too many, and the chance is gone.
66 min: Saldado chases after a ball down the inside-right channel. Cech comes out for it, too. Striker beats keeper, rounding his man on the outside, but the resulting low centre is to nobody, allowing Chelsea to clear with ease.
67 min: Meireles replaces Ramires.
69 min: Attempting a crisp and clever one-two down the left, Cole passes the ball straight into touch. A lot of his distribution has been uncharacteristically shoddy tonight.
70 min: Mata rams into Rami just inside the Valencia area, claiming a penalty kick. The referee raises an eyebrow, and we move on.
71 min: On the edge of the area, Piatti chests down an angled ball from the right. He moves out right and, in one movement, turns and unleashes a dipping volley towards the top-left corner. Cech is with him all the way, and tips over. Nowt comes from the corner.
73 min: Torres is replaced by Anelka. And there are two changes for the home side: Ever Banega and Pablo Hernandez off, Jonas and Sofiane Feghouli on.
74 min: Miguel in space down the right, but he balloons his cross into the stand behind the goal.
75 min: Chelsea look like they're killing the game nicely, stroking the ball around slowly in the middle of the park. But suddenly Malouda passes into empty space, allowing Valencia to tear upfield. Soldado nearly breaks clear in the middle, but is forced to check back. The ball ends up with Feghouli, who hits a low fizzer from distance; Cech smothers well.
76 min: Valencia have their tails up again. Piatti cuts inside from the left and hits a low shot that zips straight through the six-yard box and out of play on the right.
77 min: Rami takes a shot from nearly 40 yards, which is about as ludicrous as it gets. Some respect for Mr Cech, please, sir!
78 min: Space for Malouda on the edge of the Valencia area, just to the right of goal. He tries to sidefoot an effort into the corner; the ball just about has enough pace to roll into the arms of Diego Alves, who has come halfway out to collect.
80 min: Jordi Alba falls over Bosingwa's outstretched leg down the left, buying the foul cleverly. The free kick is worked down the wing, Canales whipping a cross straight through the area. Chelsea are living a bit dangerously.
83 min: Frank Lampard, 83, is replaced by Kalou. He's ostentatiously congratulated for his efforts by his manager.
85 min: Jonas drops a shoulder, nudges the ball to his right, and curls an effort towards the top-right corner from 20 yards. Cech tips the ball out wonderfully. Corner. From which...
86 min: PENALTY TO VALENCIA! The corner's swung in from the right. Kalou goes up with his arm to dink it away from a Valencia head. What idiocy. What needless idiocy.
87 min: GOAL!!! Valencia 1-1 Chelsea. Soldado sidefoots the penalty into the bottom-right corner, sending Cech the wrong way. Kalou was on for, what, three minutes tops? Dear Lord. Frank Lampard will be raising a wry eyebrow on the bench, at the very least.
89 min: Kalou nearly makes amends by sending Anelka clear, one on one, just to the right of the goal in the area. Anelka can't get the ball past Diego Alves, who comes out to make his 593rd outstanding save of the second half.
90 min: There will be three added minutes of this.
90 min +1: Salomon Kalou, though.
90 min +2: Canales dinks a delicious ball down the inside-right channel for Soldado to chase after. He's clear of Terry, who lumbers on the turn, but can't control the ball, which skitters off the turf and out of play. That would have completed a real smash and grab.
FULL TIME: Valencia 1-1 Chelsea. Malouda twists and turns down the right, and is eventually upended, albeit fairly. Thrashing around like a landed fish, he's booked for his petulance. And that's that, the whistle going. But that's not the end of the petulance: Mata and Cole are both booked for haranguing the referee about, well, what exactly? It was a clear penalty. Mikel looks like getting hands on with the referee for a second, but nothing comes of the situation. Andre Villas-Boas steps in to calm his men, who have lost the place a wee bit there.
In conclusion: A decent enough result for Chelsea, even though the way things panned out, they should have come away with all three points. Valencia will be happy enough too, having got out of jail late on; a draw is a fair enough result. But it's been a brilliant evening for Frank Lampard, who stacked up a load of moral credit thanks to his goal and the antics of his hapless replacement Salomon Kalou.