It’s Chelsea at home next, a noon Sunday kick off. Ridiculous of course, but just add it to the anything for a few bucks pile of accusations.
Chelsea’s travails this season have been well documented, or should I say ‘Jose’s’ as the current champions sluggish start to the season has been presented by the media to the public as more soap than sport. Mourinho has so far had a row with his doctor, fallen out with the press, made accusations against referees, argued with his players, received sanctions from on high and been banned from watching his own team – all before Christmas.
This focus on the manager has meant a less than rigorous examination on the form and behaviour of those on the pitch. Up front Costa, Hazard and Pedro have 4 league goals between them whilst at the rear 23 have been conceded in 13 games with only 3 clean sheets. Chelsea crawled towards rather than ran through the winning tape at the end of last season and the problems behind that drop in form weren’t dealt with in the close season. Confidence has come down with the Cloak of Invulnerability, chuck in injuries and suspensions and perhaps it’s no wonder that Jose looks so embattled.
The above suggests this is a good time to welcome them to WHL and given our current streak of form that’s certainly the case. The visitors have though shown a few signs of life in the last couple of games, following an unfortunate loss at Stoke with two clean sheets against Norwich and Maccabi Tel Aviv. The latter came at a cost though as Terry picked up an injury in Israel which may keep him out of this game. The plusses from our point of view include not only the obvious disruption to their defence but also the absence of a man who recently has developed a decent scoring record against us.
Erik Lamela’s non-appearance in Baku yesterday suggests that he may not be ready to return to action this weekend following his suspension and trip to South America, which means that Pochettino probably won’t spend too much time pondering his options when he considers how to replace Alli. Ryan Mason should come in and given the way Dier and Dembélé performed on Sunday, he’ll come in up top and play behind Kane. He doesn’t quite have the energy of Alli in that role but he is better at choosing and placing a pass and it shouldn’t be forgotten that he scored a lot of goals as a youngster so is more of a goal threat than appears apparent from his first team statistics. As usual there’ll be lots of movement amongst him, Son and Eriksen anyway. Assuming they’re all fit, the back five picks itself. The bench may be a little threadbare but hopefully that won’t be an issue.
So not much to say on our team news then which, if you’re playing as well as we apparently are, can only be a good thing.
I don’t believe Chelsea will be looking forward to this match very much. They’ll defend and spoil and niggle and generally try and get under our skin. It’s a recognised and often successful approach against a team in better form than you. Mourinho has a long history of bus parking in opposing territory; I wouldn’t be surprised if we see another example here. So it’s up to us to take advantage of any scraps that come our way, to avoid giving them a foothold by making mistakes at the back and to generally be on the front foot from the off. We do this with the Hurricane blowing; we’re in with a good chance of getting another great result.
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