With games coming thick and fast both in the domestic league and in Europe, niggling injuries, player not having reached top physical shape after the summer break, team selection, rotation and strategy becomes the headache of most football managers. Coaches have to be on point and make the right call on who plays, why and when. The team medics have to access the players to know who is fit and in the right frame of mind to play for the team. Chelsea still in all competition are having the the games coming thick and fast. Having played three games against Manchester City, Bolton and Aston Villa in the space of seven days and still to face Sporting Lisbon and London rival- Arsenal within few days, team changes and selections become inevitable. And after a strong display against Villa on Saturday, Mourinho is expected to ring changes in the team. Though a core of the players that started Saturday’s game is still expected to keep their position while some fresh legs are injected into the team. We look at various positions where Mourinho could make changes for the Sporting game on Tuesday.
•Goal Keeper: In goal, Thibaut Courtios has kept Cech out both in league games and Champions league thus limiting the latter to just one capital one cup game against Bolton Wanderers so far this season. Though Courtios kept a clean sheet against Villa side who offered nothing go forward, Mourinho could opt for Cech in goal to fans delight as there has been numerous calls among the Chelsea faithful to give the Czech more playing time. Again he has experience in this kind of tricky tie that is invaluable. I don’t see a picture of Mark Schwazer in this game so, the choice is between courtios and Cech if Mourinho decides to make a change in this department of the team.
•Left Full back: Cesar Azpilicueta has made the position his own ever since he was played in this position against Bundesliga side Schalke 04 in the champions league group stage mid-october 2013. Not even Felipe Luis who arrived SW6 in the summer could usurp him of the position. Mourinho on his part has decided to ease the Brazilian into the team rather than throw him into the thick of action and this is one game he could likely use to get the player some game time as he continue his acclimatisation and integration into the team. More so, he has a very good experience in this competition after his brilliant outing with Atletico Madrid en route reaching the champions league final last season.
•Midfield: While its is expected that Fabregas, Matic and Oscar start this game, there is little doubt over Hazard. The Belgian had a quiet game by his own standard against Villa prompting Mourinho to substitute him just after the hour mark for Andre Schuerrle. The german has almost become a super-sub for both club and country as he can change the course of games and score vital goals while coming in as a substitute. The german can also perform well when handed a starter shirt. I’d expected Schuerrle to start this game in place of Hazard or Willian though for Hazard is more likely as the latter had a goal and an assist to his name in his last game and may want to continue with that blistering form.
•Striker: Diego Costa is likely to miss this one due to his hamstring problem as Mourinho has claimed the striker needs to rest and thus cannot start three games in a week yet as he can hardly train between games. “He cannot be on top of his game. He’s doing almost nothing in training. He’s just resting and recovering from tight muscle he has. I want to select him. Let’s see what happens” were Mourinho’s words when quizzed about the striker’s situation. If Costa is not able to start then, Loic Remy looks the best bet to take his position upfront. The french man has been decent in recent games he has played for Chelsea. Drogba is also in contention for starter place if Costa couldn’t make it though most fans will fancy Remy no thanks to Didier’s unimpressive display against Schalke04 a fortnight ago.
Players to start: •Cech• Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry(c), Luis• Fabregas, Matic• Schuerrle, Oscar, Willian• Remy.
In Bench: •Courtios, Zouma, Azpilicueta, Mikel, Hazard, Costa.