Chelsea will travel to Upton Park to play West Ham on Saturday and will hope to avoid a repeat of the 3-1 loss there last season but will have to improve their form away from home to avoid another upset.
Jose Mourinho told reporters at a press conference today that Fernando Torres is not quite ready to play and Ashley Cole is ‘selected’ which I assume to mean that he’ll start tomorrow’s game at left-back in place of Cesar Azpilicueta after recovering from a rib injury and appearing for England in the week.
Our opponents have a number of injuries to contend with. Winston Reid is to be out for the long-term after having surgery on his ankle and Razvan Rat is a doubt with a hamstring injury. There is some good news for Sam Allardyce as Joey O’Brien and James Collins are expected to be fit for selection.
Below is my predicted XI (left) and the team I’d select (right):
I haven’t been convinced by Ashley Cole for some time now and wouldn’t think it right for him to walk straight back into this side without giving Ryan Bertrand a proper opportunity at left-back, especially when he had a great rate of passing in the opposition half with a pass every 1.8 minutes during his solitary league appearance so far and his link-up play with Eden Hazard looked promising against Cardiff City. Cole isn’t offering enough going forward and is more frequently getting burned going the other way than he ever did during his pomp.
Similarly, I understand that Branislav Ivanovic is there as a physical presence who gives air to Petr Cech’s long kicks and plays an important role but he isn’t as natural a right-back as Cesar Azpilicueta and cannot cross a ball anywhere near as well. It’s often during an attack that your fullback is your free man so has to give the opposition something to worry about and neither of our starting fullbacks are doing that at the moment.
It may be important for Mourinho to see exactly where Luiz’s head is at and if his early form was just a blip. The defender improved greatly last season and hasn’t turned into a bad player overnight, so his issues must be addressed if he’s to remain at Stamford Bridge for the foreseeable future. Gary Cahill has done well and works hard but is trumped by Luiz in terms of talent and his mistakes are never discussed in the way the Brazilian’s are.
I’ve been saying it for weeks but John Obi Mikel deserves a run in the starting XI. Possession is nine-tenths of the law and there’s no better way of keeping the ball whilst providing a stable platform to spring from than putting a man whose pass accuracy is over 90 per cent. Mikel also represents a more natural partner for Ramires than Frank Lampard, who ought to be playing less time and higher up the pitch at this stage of his career as his current role doesn’t suit him at all.
Many argue that Hazard hasn’t particularly impressed this season but he remains our biggest chance creator as Oscar lacks that spark in the number 10 role, and may even be more suited to central midfield, so I think Chelsea’s attack needs the sort of magic that Juan Mata provides. When he has played it’s clear to see that Mata is working a lot harder off the ball and needs more than 45-60 minutes to get a run of form going. We’ve had players that have gone weeks without a good performance remain in the team, so Mata deserves at least a full game or two.