Chelsea kick-off there Capital One Cup campaign against League One side Swindon on Tuesday night and we could see Mark Schwarzer, Michael Essien, Ryan Bertrand and Cesar Azpilicueta get their first starts of the season.
But all eyes will be on the Blues’ back-to-back Player of the Year Juan Mata, who has been challenged by Jose Mourinho to impress him as the Portuguese manager believes the Spaniard has to adapt his game if he wants to be in his side. It’s a situation that has sparked much debate between fans, pundits and ex-professionals alike.
David Luiz was openly criticised for his performance in the FC Basel game by Mourinho ahead of Saturday’s match versus Fulham and was left out of the playing squad along with Mata, but Mourinho confirmed that he too will be returning to action when Chelsea visit the County Ground.
The team I’m expecting to see…
C. Azpilicueta – B. Ivanovic – D. Luiz – R. Bertrand
M. Essien – F. Lampard (c)
K. De Bruyne – J. Mata – Willian
Hopefully Mata proves a point of sorts and puts in the sort of display we know he’s capable of, but in reality it’ll take a bigger test to truly make Mourinho eat his words. I’m hoping he uses the critique as a motivation.
For some of these players – Schwarzer, Bertrand and Essien, who wasn’t even included in our Champions League squad, the Capital One Cup will probably be the only real action they’ll get to see for much of the season barring something drastic, but Azpilicueta is an ambitious right-back (and in my opinion our best one) and he’ll be another player that will want to maximise every opportunity he gets coming his way as Mourinho made it clear early on that he prefers Branislav Ivanovic and hasn’t rotated the Serbian despite a few iffy performances.