Hull City, or the Hull City Tigers as they are now known as are the visitors to Stamford Bridge on Mourinho’s return, televised live on Sky Sports
So far this summer Chelsea have only signed two players expected to be in contention for regular first team football. Those are André Schürrle from Bayer 04 Leverkusen and Marco van Ginkel from Vitesse.
Three other signings; Isaiah Brown (West Bromwich Albion), Cristián Cuevas (O'Higgins) and Stipe Perica (NK Zadar) are all teenagers and are thought to be for the long-term and not immediately competing for a starting position.
The final signing to date of Mark Schwarzer is likely to play backup to first choice goalkeeper Petr Čech, or at least compete with Hilario for that spot on the bench.
Chelsea went on a tour of Asia for their pre-season. After some uncompetitive friendlies versus the Singha All-Stars, a Malaysia XI and BNI Indonesia All-Stars the Blues competed in an International Champions Trophy against Internazionale, AC Milan and Real Madrid before finishing their tour with a match against Roma.
Those four games, particularly the first three may have given us an indication of whom José Mourinho will pick for his first line up against the Hull City Tigers.
Here is how Mourinho used his players during those four aforementioned games, ordered by minutes played:
José Mourinho looks like he’s adopting the 4-2-3-1 formation, although he did use a 4-3-3 formation in the 3-1 defeat to Real Madrid. He won all three matches versus the Italian sides.
With David Luiz injured for part of the tour, Gary Cahill has taken advantage and played the same number of minutes as captain John Terry in the centre of defence. This would suggest to me that David Luiz may not be fully match fit and therefore Cahill will get the nod ahead for the season opener.
Branislav Ivanović was signed shortly after Mourinho left Stamford Bridge for the first time but the Serbian right-back started three of the four friendly games and played the third-most minutes. Mourinho’s like for tall full-backs may also play in his favour – standing at 6’2” he has a substantial height advantage over César Azpilicueta, competing for the position.
At left-back I would see no reason why it won’t be Ashley Cole in that position. Still a solid player in that role, he was signed and became a regular under Mourinho during his first spell.
Ramires and Marco van Ginkel played the most time amongst holding midfielders. Frank Lampard didn’t have much of a pre-season whilst Michael Essien got some good time too. Essien was signed by Mourinho during his first spell at Stamford Bridge and even brought the Ghanian international on loan to Real Madrid last season. So I wouldn’t be surprised if Essien started the opening game over the inexperienced van Ginkel, but I’m leaning towards the Dutch midfielder to start against Hull City and save the proven Essien for the midweek game versus Aston Villa.
John Obi Mikel didn’t get much time in comparison and has been linked with a move away from Stamford Bridge this summer.
Eden Hazard stood out amongst the attacking midfielders. Many of us are expecting the Belgian to have an ever better season than his debut one in the Premier League last season.
Oscar and Victor Moses saw a good deal of game time too – more than the recalled Kevin De Bruyne, and summer signing André Schürrle.
Juan Mata made just 2 substitute appearances combining for 90 minutes. However the Spaniard was arguably in need of a rest following the incredible number of games he has played over the past few seasons, which included last summer’s Olympics and this summer’s Confederations Cup. Mind you, Oscar is in the same boat.
It appears to be up for grabs amongst the strikers who played 149, 122 and 121 minutes respectively. Fernando Torres played the most out of three but Romelu Lukaku was the only striker to start 2 games amongst he, Torres and Demba Ba.
The Belgian was also the only one of Chelsea’s three strikers to find the back of the net. Unless you’re counting André Schürrle as a striker.
Fernando Torres’ solo start came against Roma, which included Mark Schwarzer, Ryan Bertrand, John Obi Mikel, Kevin De Bruyne and André Schürrle; players we’re not anticipating starting the opening game.
After all that, here’s the eleven I am guessing will start against the Hull City Tigers on Sunday:
What do you think, how would you expect Mourinho to line his side up?
image: © geetarchurchy