With Jose Mourinho’s declaration that his Chelsea team are ‘in trouble’ as they struggle to keep a clean sheet, and hang on to the coat-tails of Arsenal at the head of the Premier League, this week’s Champions’ League tie against group makeweights Steaua Bucharest offers them a chance not only to win the group, but also to restore some confidence.
Mourinho faces a bit of a dilemma with his team selection. He could send out the team that failed against Stoke City – accompanied with a kick up the backside and an invitation to put things right, or he could wield the axe an drop a few of the players that he feels need a lesson. It may even be a combination of the two.
One thing seems clear, that Ashley Cole will be back in his accustomed left back berth. Although Cesar Azpilicueta has worked manfully, he is no Ashley Cole, and freeing the Spaniard from the left flank may allow Mourinho to deploy him in his usual right back position. If he takes this option, pairing Ivanovic, alongside John terry looks a likely possibility.
In midfield, Frank Lampard seems certain to return to the holding role, probably alongside Ramires. The impressive Willian deserves a starting berth, but he may not get one. With Hazard in form and Schurrle netting a brace on Saturday, both are likely to play, leaving Mata – who was singled out for praise by the manager – in the number ten role.
The question then arises as to who leads the line. None have been overly impressive, despite Mourinho’s exaltations of them ‘working hard’. The temptation may be to push Schurrle forward, and slide Willian in the role vacated by the German. It’s something he tried earlier in the season against Manchester united, with limited success as the Blues secured a 0-0 draw at Old Trafford. Whichever combination the Portuguese plumps for, he’ll know that not winning is not an option.