After suffering humiliation at the hands of title rivals Manchester City, Chelsea seem to be in disarray and were given a timely reality check. In the post-match press conference, Mourinho claimed that the game was “a fake result” but deep down, he knows better than everyone else that his side needs to improve considerably. The Portuguese tactician hinted at a few changes to his side in the upcoming fixture, so what can we expect?
Between the sticks
Even though Begovic put in a decent shift against City, Mourinho is likely to go with Courtois in goal, who is returning from a one-game suspension.
A solid (not anymore!) back four
After a defensive horror show at the back where captain, leader and legend John Terry was astonishingly hauled off at half-time, Gary Cahill looked off pace, and Branislav Ivanovic appeared to be severely out of sorts, the Chelsea manager is likely to ring in the changes.
Ivanovic looks most likely to depart, after being outwitted and outpaced by both Montero and Sterling in recent weeks. In his place, new recruit Baba Rahman will make his Chelsea debut, albeit in the left-back position. This would see Azpilicueta finally switch to his preferred, natural right-sided role. The centre of defence, however, is quite close to call. The captain, Terry, was replaced at half-time but with Mourinho having proven to his side that no one is untouchable, he might just give Terry another chance to get his form back. In that case, Zouma is likely to miss out on a starting spot even though he put in an assured display (partnering Cahill) in the second half against City last week. Lastly, Cahill is expected to feature alongside either Terry or Zouma to complete the backline.
In the middle of the park
One sure-starter in Jose’s 4-2-3-1 system is the tall, tough-tackling Matic. He was the only Chelsea player at the Etihad Stadium who wasn’t unfazed by the attacking threat of Silva and co, holding his own under the watchful eyes of Jose Mourinho. Moving on, Fabregas is likely to keep his place in the double pivot, even though he was outmuscled and outrun by City’s dominant midfield, reduced almost to a fascinated bystander.
The attacking trident
To the left, double Player of the Year Eden Hazard is set to act as the team’s main attacking threat, bamboozling defenders with his silky skills and using his intelligent movement to run in behind the defence. Willian will occupy the opposite flank, leading his side’s counter-attacks and driving the team forward with his strong runs. Oscar is likely to return to the starting eleven as the No. 10 after recovering from a knock he picked up in training. Since this fixture is against one of the ‘lesser sides’ (no disrespect to West Brom), expect this Chelsea attack to be fluid and adventurous.
With the signing of speedy winger Pedro for £22 million from treble-winners Barcelona, this Chelsea frontline has undoubtedly been strengthened. And while the Spanish recruit is not expected to start, he may well come on from the bench to make his Chelsea debut. In that case, we would see Willian occupy the space behind the striker and Oscar subbed (he is always more likely to be subbed off than Willian) for Pedro, who would provide Chelsea with more pace, width and a direct approach.
A beast of a striker
Diego Costa will be the focal point of attack once again, using his hold-up play, aerial threat and fighting spirit to the fullest. After his quiet performance in the weekend, expect to see some fireworks!