After a surprise defeat at home to FC Basel, Jose Mourinho’s men got back on track with a win over Steaua Bucharest last time out.
However, with a tricky trip to Switzerland still to overcome, the Stamford Bridge side will hope to get positive results against the Bundesliga side in the next two games.
Tonight’s trip to Gelsenkirchen will be a test for a Chelsea side that are yet to hit top gear this term, and the Blues have been handed a bit of discouraging injury news ahead of the clash.
Ashley Cole has been on the sidelines for club and country of late, and there were reserved hopes that the England international would be fit for the trip to Germany.
However, the Premier League side have confirmed that they will air on the side of caution and Cole will not be risked in tonight’s clash.
As such, Ryan Bertrand will continue at left-back and could be in for a busy evening. Schalke’s side is loaded with attacking players that will look to put Chelsea under pressure, none more so than reported Blues transfer target Julian Draxler.
When looking for potential weaknesses in the visiting side ahead of the clash, Schalke may consider Bertrand and his lack of consistent first-team football of late as an area they can exploit.
Draxler is right-footed but usually plays on the left flank and looks to cut infield and get involved in the side’s attacks. However, with the relatively uncompromising figure of Branislav Ivanovic likely to be up against the Germany international, Schalke may consider playing Draxler on the other flank against Bertrand.
One way or the other, Bertrand has a glorious chance in Cole’s absence to remind the club’s fans of his ability and push forward his case that he is the man to permanently replace the England star once he leaves Stamford Bridge.
With Cole’s current deal expiring in the summer, Bertrand could well be called into regular first-team action as early as the start of next season, but needs to impress in the fleeting appearances that he gets this term.
With Chelsea’s inclination of buying from abroad, there is a chance that Bertrand could well be overlooked when Mourinho is looking for a long-term replacement for Cole. A strong performance against Schalke could make the Portuguese coach think again.
Leighton Baines took his opportunity for England to stake a claim for a regular starting berth in the national side while Cole was injured; can Bertrand do the same at Chelsea?
image: © Ben Sutherland