Last May with the premier league already decided, I saw Chelsea play Manchester City in New York. The Blues were a Spanish influenced version of the current team: with Azpilicueta, Mata and Torres being undisputed starters under Benítez. Even, El niño was the captain. Yet, Chelsea lost three goals to five, if I recall correctly, but this coming Sunday the score should be different.: Chelsea must win.
A lot has changed for Chelsea since then. Mata and Azpilicueta are often confined to the bench, while Torres has to share time with Eto’o and sometimes Ba upfront. The midfield has turned into a never stopping carousel where anybody could play any position in any given day. New manager new policies I guess. This weekend with Mourinho at the helm, Chelsea plays a Manchester City squad that hasn’t change that much, except for swapping Tevez for Negredo, the rest of the team remains pretty much the same.
So, if Manchester city still the same demolishing attacking threat that I saw five months ago, why the result should be different? For starters, this Sunday’s match is not a friendly. Defense will be implemented. Moreover, Mourinho will clog the middle of the field so there is no space for Silva, Toure, Nasri or Aguero to operate.
Who will the Portuguese use in midfield? Probably Mikel, Ramirez, Hazard, Mata and Oscar.
Ramirez -or whoever plays on the right holding midfield position- would have the specific task of being Silva’’s shadow, while Mikel with his slower pace, should take care of Toure. Mata and Oscar will help covering Ramirez’ back and help double team Silva. Hazard must do the same accompanying Mikel against Toure.
Furthermore, the defensive line should bring no surprises and pretty much the same back four used in Germany should start Ivanovic, Terry, Cahill, and Azpilicueta. Mourinho may take a gamble and introduce Luiz for Terry or Mikel in the starting lineup depending on how grueling was the trip to Schalke, but I doubt it.
With the suggested lineup, completed obviously by Cech on Goal and Torres upfront, Chelsea should have no problem imposing its will at home. The Isolation of Toure and Silva will leave Navas and Nasri lost on the sides which certainly gives hold of the game to The Blues. Translating that hold into a win will depend on two simple factors. Controlling the hard-working Negredo, who is on fire and can create goals out of nothing, and the accuracy in Torres’ shots.
Because if nothing else, one thing remains true from that day in May to at least the first day on January’s transfer window: Torres is Chelsea’s main option for goals/success.
PS: During Benítez’ reign, most of the Stamford Bridge’s faithful did not warm up to him, due to his constant attacks to Abramovich and Mourinho while at Liverpool. Plus the fact that his Liverpool denied Champions League glory to one of the strongest teams Chelsea have had. Twice we encountered Benítez and the Merseyside reds on the semifinals stages of the UCL and twice he beat us. Personally I think he was a true professional and accomplished what he was hired to do: qualifying Chelsea to this year’s Champions League, so while watching the 3-0 win in Germany I thank you for that Rafa.