Chelsea are under pressure as they prepare to face Steaua Bucharest after losing to FC Basel at Stamford Bridge.
Jose Mourinho will be looking for a quick turnaround and while he won’t admit it, he probably won’t care if it’s the scrappiest three points Chelsea secure as they look to get their Champions League journey back on track.
Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne have both been left behind in London, which makes it fascinating to try and work out the midfield Mourinho may go with for this match.
Here’s the XI he may start with.
GK – Petr Cech
Cech is a certainty for every big match Chelsea face. His experience is key and he’s proven he can be effective in a variety of situations. He has great command of his penalty area and organises the back four well.
RB – Branislav Ivanovic
Ivanovic is Mourinho’s right-back despite the presence of Cesar Azpilicueta pushing for a start on a frequent basis. Ivanovic offers strength and aggression down the right, which is useful if Steaua look to attack Chelsea down that side.
CB – Gary Cahill
Expect to see Cahill coming back into the side because he’s quicker than Terry and he’s also fresher. Cahill can cover on those occasions when David Luiz can’t resist and bursts out of the back four to get involved with the midfield.
CB – David Luiz
Chelsea will have a lot of possession which will allow the back four to play a high line. Expect to see David Luiz keep his place in the team because he’s one of the best defenders around when it comes to feeding possession into midfield.
LB – Ashley Cole
Cole’s ability to get forward and provide extra width on the left hand side doesn’t need selling. He’s quick enough to be able to track back quickly and his experience will also be useful.
DM – John Obi Mikel
Mikel can sit in front of the back four and protect his defence. He’s good enough to fill in for David Luiz if the Brazilian gets out of position and his recent form has been solid and his confidence will be high.
HM – Ramires
Ramires will probably play a holding role in central midfield. He’ll get on the ball and feed the more creative players but don’t expect to see him getting too advanced. He can control the pace and flow of Chelsea’s midfield play.
RM – Andre Schurrle
Schurrle played well against Tottenham last weekend and that will probably give him the chance to play on the right hand side. He offers pace and an extra option on the right after Ivanovic found himself with no options in that side in the defeat against Basel.
AM – Oscar
Oscar will probably play in behind the striker where he’s been effective for most of the season. He’s comfortable in midfield, he’s comfortable in attack and he brings so many other players into the game.
LM – Juan Mata
It would be tragic if Mata didn’t start this game because he changed the match against Spurs. He’ll probably start over on the left hand side but can change with Oscar frequently based on the balance of the game and how much pressure Chelsea build through central and wide positions.
ST – Fernando Torres
Other than Romelu Lukaku at Everton, Torres is the only Chelsea forward who has look anything like top quality and in good form recently. He’ll be angry following his red card against Spurs and Chelsea can use that anger to their advantage.
What do you think? Who do you want to see starting?
image: © Ben Sutherland