Chelsea have struggled this season when using a second-choice team.
Jose Mourinho has been praised for his management of the squad, with his desire to utilise as few players as possible in the search for consistency - and it has brought results. Just two league defeats have been recorded, with one coming at the hands of Newcastle whilst missing Nemanja Matic, and the second a shock defeat to Spurs.
Diego Costa, Cesc Fabregas, Eden Hazard and Matic are all key figures in the first-team, and their presence in the side is so strongly felt that the Blues suffer when even just one of them is missing. For Mourinho, he has recognised their importance, and has started them in every possible game.
However, the incredible strength of the West Londoner’s starting XI has created a major problem for Mourinho, and it was a problem that Bradford City exploited in the 4-2 FA Cup win over the Blues at the weekend.
When playing so-called ‘weaker’ opposition, the Portuguese coach has utilised the fringe members of his squad, such as John Obi Mikel, Ramires and Loic Remy, and their lack of match fitness was upstaged by the desire of Bradford.
Mikel in particular failed to impress, and his performance in the League Cup Semi-Final with Liverpool last week was equally as poor. Unable to keep up with the pace of the game, the Nigerian international failed to shield the defence with any sense of achievement, meaning he failed at his one main job.
The poor performances of the back-up players creates a problem for Mourinho. If he is to make sure that his second string are up to the rigours of the Premier League, the coach would need to play them more to ensure they are match fit and always ready for action. However, as has been shown, playing them in their current state could prove incredibly costly to the Blues, as they offer just a fraction of their true abilities.
Chelsea should be praised for their ability to consistently keep a starting XI that represents their strongest, and it is the factor that will most likely win them the Premier League title. However, when fighting for a number of trophies, a strong squad of match ready players is a necessity, and it appears as if Mourinho has failed to acknowledge this fact.
Following the collapse at home to Bradford at the weekend, one would expect the Portuguese coach to name his strongest, Premier League starting XI for the second leg of the League Cup Semi-Final on Tuesday evening.