Rafael Benitez will take charge of his first game as Chelsea’s interim coach against Manchester City at Stamford Bridge on Sunday and it could see Spanish forward Fernando Torres return to the starting line-up after he was left out against Juventus in the week.
Both John Terry and Frank Lampard will miss the game against the reigning Premier League champions, whilst Daniel Sturridge remains doubtful.
The team I’d pick:
P. Cech (c)
C. Azpilicueta – B. Ivanovic – G. Cahill – A. Cole
J. Mikel – Ramires
Oscar – E. Hazard – J. Mata
Benitez is seen as a disciplinarian and if he’s going to leave someone out or give them a bollocking, it should be none other than David Luiz, who has been woeful in recent matches and when he’s not losing his man, he’s watching them score whilst he’s jogging back slowly from a position he shouldn’t have found himself in the first place. The other lads haven’t shone either, but a bit of organisation, as well as help from those further up the park is what we need and Branislav Ivanovic and Gary Cahill are far more disciplined than the Brazilian.
I enjoy seeing John Obi Mikel move further up the park from time to time, threading a few passes through and getting more involved with attacks, but he’s at his best when he’s barely noticed. Mikel’s primary job should be to control the midfield area and protect the defence. Ramires also has a responsibility to pull his weight defensively and also to press when he is in advanced positions and we loss possession.
Eden Hazard, Juan Mata and Oscar have all looked brilliant when going forward this season and they are amongst the most exciting players to watch in the Premier League but when we don’t have the ball, it’s often only Hazard and the forward that are pressing the opposition in their own half. Oscar has shown that he can do his fair share of defensive work when he had Pirlo in his pocket for most of Juventus’ trip to Stamford Bridge, but didn’t do anything of the sort in Turin. Mata hasn’t done enough recently to help track back and defend high up the pitch either, so it’s something that we’ll have to work on as it’s a little unfair to criticise the defence all the time when they’re being overloaded.
There’s still no alternative and his mate has arrived, so I cannot see an eventuality in which Torres doesn’t start the game unless he suffers an injury. I’m hoping that Benitez can get something out of the forward…I won’t hold my breath, but I’ll hope nonetheless.