Chelsea can make a big step towards the second round of the Champions League with three points against Schalke 04 at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night.
The Blues currently top Group E ahead of the Bundesliga side by virtue of goal difference and cannot waste the opportunity to create a gap between the two sides as well as maintaining their distance from FC Basel.
Jose Mourinho was always going to rotate his side for this game but wanted to make it clear that any changes he does make shouldn’t be interpreted as punishment for the 2-0 loss against Newcastle United on Saturday.
Both Fernando Torres and Ryan Bertrand are unavailable for selection as the former is suffering with a thigh injury and awaits results on a scan whilst Bertrand picked up an injury in training today so won’t be taking part against Schalke either.
The XI I’d go for:
B. Ivanovic – G. Cahill – J. Terry (c) – C. Azpilicueta
Ramires – J. Mikel
Willian – J. Mata – A. Schurrle
Samuel Eto’o injected a bit of life into the performance against Newcastle and was unlucky not to score when he came on for Torres at the weekend and I’d have considered him a contender to start regardless of Torres’ current fitness. Sports betting site bwin currently have Eto’o down as joint 17th favourite to finish the season as the Premier League’s top scorer.
Gary Cahill accompanied Mourinho to today’s press conference and will probably start considering the heat on David Luiz after his apathetic approach to defending at the weekend. I don’t want the Brazilian to be made a scapegoat, I know he can do better and believe him to be the better player between the two but reckon Cahill will get the nod here.
Ashley Cole was abysmal in the last game and has been inconsistent for some time now so I’d go with Cesar Azpilicueta, who started the away match against Schalke at left-back and did well despite some shakiness whilst adjusting to an unfamiliar flank. He is definitely not a player that will be a regular feature at left-back but we can’t afford to get burned in this position like Cole was up against Moussa Sissoko.
John Obi Mikel was unlucky to be dropped following a good performance from the bench against Manchester City and an impressive showing against Arsenal in the Capital One Cup. This time he will be hoping that maintaining this sort of form will lead to rewards in league games and should arguably be ahead of Frank Lampard at the moment as the veteran’s legs aren’t with him.
Oscar’s last game may have been his worst in a Chelsea shirt and Eden Hazard hasn’t always been the top of his game this season so I’d rest both in place of Willian and Andre Schurrle.
Who would be in your Chelsea XI for the upcoming Champions League clash against Schalke? Have your say in the comments section below