Maribor v Chelsea: Visitors eye knockout stages

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Chelsea continue to battle a hectic schedule as they seek to book their place in the UEFA Champions League knockout stages at Maribor.

Jose Mourinho's men travel to Slovenia for Wednesday's Group G encounter knowing three points will be enough to qualify if Sporting fail to beat Schalke in the pool's other fixture.

Chelsea are sure to be confident of fulfilling their side of the bargain too, having thrashed Maribor 6-0 at Stamford Bridge just a fortnight ago.

But one potential hurdle for the Premier League leaders to overcome is fatigue, with the game representing their fourth fixture in the space of 11 days and coming before a tricky domestic trip to Liverpool on Saturday.

There were signs of Chelsea being affected by their congested schedule in a laboured 2-1 win against QPR on Saturday, with Eden Hazard's 75th-minute penalty securing three points.

"The week was very strange," Mourinho explained. "You play Manchester United on the Sunday, on the Monday you travel [to Shrewsbury Town in the League Cup].

"Some of the players had two days off. Some of the others had to go to Shrewsbury immediately and some of them played 90 minutes there. Then some had a free day the next day but it was a working day for the others.

"It was a very strange week to work and to be focused." 

Mourinho will be hoping for a vociferous backing from Chelsea's away following in Slovenia after the Portuguese criticised a lack of atmosphere at Stamford Bridge against QPR.

Chelsea will be without striker Loic Remy (groin), but John Obi Mikel could come into contention after missing out at the weekend with a reported knee injury.

Mourinho must also make a decision on whether to play Diego Costa, who returned from injury and illness against Harry Redknapp's men, with veteran striker Didier Drogba having proved an able deputy with three goals in Chelsea's last four matches.

For Maribor, another defeat will almost certainly spell the end of their Champions League campaign as they have just two points from three matches.

With the gulf in quality so evident in the last match, Maribor know that a vastly improved performance is required to pull off a famous Champions League upset.

But midfielder Ales Mertelj is refusing to give up the fight, telling Maribor's official website: "Even though it is such a reputable team as Chelsea, who scored six goals at home, we will not give up and we will not surrender in advance."

Defender Aleksander Rajcevic is absent for the hosts with a head injury, while there are doubts over Zeljko Filipovic, Agim Ibraimi (both illness) and Ales Mejac (hamstring).