Jose Mourinho was furious with his players after they were beaten 2-0 by Newcastle United last weekend and made a number of changes for the match against Schalke, but how many of the lads that impressed on Wednesday will keep their place against West Brom today?
Eden Hazard returns to the squad today after missing out the midweek game as punishment for missing a training session. The incident is behind him and the Belgian ought to have been rested anyway, but if you’re backing him to come back strong then he’s 2/1 to score at any time with 888sport.
Spanish forward Fernando Torres remains sidelined with injury so either Samuel Eto’o or Demba Ba will start up front for the Blues and it’s much more likely to be the former following his brace against Schalke on Wednesday. There are no other concerns from Chelsea’s point of view aside from long term casualty Marco van Ginkel.
A few familiar faces return to Stamford Bridge as Steve Clarke, former player and was Mourinho’s assistant during the Portuguese manager’s first stint at the club, will come up against his former side. Nicolas Anelka also makes a return to a former stomping ground and is 9/2 to score any time against his old club but another ex-player is ruled doubtful. Victor Anichebe has recovered from a hamstring injury.
The team I’d pick today:
C. Azpilicueta – G. Cahill – J. Terry (c) – R. Bertrand
Ramires – J. Mikel
Willian – J. Mata – E. Hazard
Gary Cahill, Cesar Azpilicueta, John Obi Mikel, Willian and Eto’o all put in performances that warranted a starting berth for today during the Schalke match and it would be unfair to drop them today. Andre Schurrle did well against the Bundesliga side as well but faded in the second half and I’d never have the German in the side against Eden Hazard, who has served his punishment for missing training.
Ramires and Mikel’s midfield partnership is a no-brainer as far as I’m concerned. Following a dreadful performance against Newcastle Ramires was paired with a midfielder that shared the defensive burden as both were disciplined when it came to protecting the defence. Where the Brazilian is the ball winning box-to-box variety his partner compliments him as Mikel is the passer, holder of possession and having someone with a 90+% accuracy is valuable in that position.
Oscar needs a rest in midfield and has gone off the boil in the last few games so it’s only fair that he should be rested today as Juan Mata hasn’t been shown that sort of grace this season and gets hooked for a bad half hour, let alone a couple of average performances. The Spaniard hasn’t complained about the challenge ahead of him and looks to be following his manager’s advice as he is doing more off the ball, so I think should be given benefit of the doubt more often. I believe he’s still the best number 10 in the squad, and only Mesut Ozil can hold a candle to him in the league.
Willian has been brilliant in recent weeks but hasn’t yet clinched as many opportunities as he’s deserved and he looked to link up really well with Eto’o on Wednesday, so I’d definitely start him today.
David Luiz is a better player than Cahill but there’s a debate there over which of the two should partner John Terry in defence and despite the England defender’s many faults I think he’s played well enough to keep his place. Luiz has worryingly regressed from the improvement he had shown throughout last season and probably needs a reality check (kick up the backside) to get him back on track.
Last but by no means least, Ryan Bertrand probably would have played some part against Schalke had he not picked up a knock in training on Tuesday and there are several reasons why I’d give him the nod today. Firstly, Ashley Cole’s form (if you can call it that) has not been anywhere near good enough, Hazard has played his best games when linking up with Bertrand this season and Azpilicueta deserves a shot in his own position whilst Branislav Ivanovic should be rested as he’s played a lot of football and isn’t exactly my preference as a fullback.
Who’d be in your Chelsea XI today?