By Mike Collett
LONDON, Nov 6 (Reuters) - Chelsea virtually guaranteed their place in the knockout rounds of the Champions League after weathering an early storm to beat Schalke 04 3-0 and take a commanding lead in Group E at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.
Schalke started the brighter, but the match tipped Chelsea's way when Samuel Eto'o pounced to score after 31 minutes when goalkeeper Timo Hildebrand took too long to clear, allowing Eto'o to stick a boot in the way of the ball, which shot past the keeper and into the net.
Eto'o made it 2-0 in the 54th minute with a well-taken goal after a swift break and a neat final pass from Willian. Substitute Demba Ba made it 3-0 with a mis-hit volley in the 83rd minute.
Although Schalke continued to search for a goal after going two behind, they lost much of their impetus when their most dangerous player, Julian Draxler, was replaced after an hour with a knock.
The result puts Chelsea clear at the top of Group E with nine points, three ahead of second-placed Schalke.
(Editing by Stephen Wood)