Chelsea have suffered a couple of bad results recently but can begin to put all that behind them by claiming all three points when they host Fulham at Stamford Bridge on Saturday evening.
The Blues have not won in four games and have now lost three on the spin, if you count losing the Super Cup on penalties as a defeat, and Jose Mourinho will be demanding a reaction from a squad that is being heavily criticised by the press.
John Terry could return to the starting line-up after being rested in midweek and Ramires is back from a one-match European suspension. There are no fresh injury concerns or suspensions for Mourinho to worry about so it’s a full compliment.
As for Fulham, Darren Bent is fit for selection, Dimitar Berbatov will have a fitness test on a hamstring problem, but Bryan Ruiz, Aaron Hughes, Matthew Briggs and Maarten Stekelenburg are all sidelined with injuries.
The Chelsea XI I’d pick:
C. Azpilicueta – G. Cahill – J. Terry (c) – A. Cole
J. Mikel – Ramires
Oscar – J. Mata – Willian
It’s clear that Mourinho is still learning about his squad as he doesn’t quite seem to know what his best XI is and has come under scrutiny after using 20 different players in the league already, but there are a few repetitive problems that need sorting out.
Now, whilst Branislav Ivanovic is a good and hard working player I don’t quite see him as natural a right-back as Cesar Azpilicueta and can’t work out why the Spaniard has not been giving a chance. He’s more comfortable on the ball and provides width, which is essential when you’re playing either a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3. Ashley Cole was particularly poor against Everton and not much better midweek, but I just can’t see Ryan Bertrand getting a game.
Chelsea lost against Everton but enjoyed a lot of possession and that was in no small part to John Obi Mikel, with his pass completion of 93%, over 60% of those were forwards and he made eight tackles. In Sky’s post-match analysis of the game against Basel former Blue Michael Ballack stressed the importance of having this type of midfielder in the team and he would know all about the man he played alongside when we won the double under Carlo Ancelotti. But Mikel isn’t the quickest and isn’t going to offer you a lot going forward, so Ramires’ dynamism and pace is needed but I wouldn’t mind seeing how Oscar does when paired with the Nigerian in the future.
Juan Mata hasn’t featured a lot for us so far this season but he’s still our best player in my eyes so Mourinho has to use him. He’s far more clinical than Oscar in the number 10 role when it comes to scoring and making assists. He’s not going to do much for you defensively but with Mikel and Ramires behind him he won’t need to, whilst Willian and Oscar will help out the fullbacks. Eden Hazard hasn’t looked himself and needs a rest.
None of our forwards are scoring at the moment so it’s hard to choose between them, but Fernando Torres is the only one to score so far this season and Samuel Eto’o has had 180 minutes to impress and has failed to do so. The Cameroon legend doesn’t look sharp right now and perhaps we’ll have to wait longer than hoped to see his striker’s instinct kick in.