Hey, I love Spain as much as the next guy, but two weeks just for International Break? That’s cruel and unusual punishment for us club football junkies. At least we can rest easy knowing we have a jam packed eight days ahead. Starting with a trip to Southampton on Saturday which ended in a 2-1 loss, the players barely have enough time to catch their breath and change their shirt, before they’re thrust into what is bound to be an exciting replay with Manchester United.
I must say I’m no longer excited for this fixture. I was excited, but my emotions have driven straight past that stop. I literally cannot sit still with the anticipation with what both teams have in store. While our record against Manchester United may not be our best, if our second half display against them on 10th of March is anything to go by, we still have a chance of winning. Top of the league or not, Chelsea cannot be counted out. Okay, our squad has had more depth before. Okay, we only have two strikers who aren’t exactly breaking the net at the moment, but guess what we do have. We have 2 M’s; motivation and Mata. The little wizard is bound to be out in full force come Monday, hopefully netting one of his wonder goals. Hopefully Rafa Benetiz will have the good sense to reserve the likes of Mata and Hazard for the FA Cup game which, at the moment, is looking like Chelsea’s best chance at some silverware this season.
The boys in blue must be absolutely smashed at this point. We’ve already played more than 50 games this season, with more or less the same players (excluding most notably, the Middlesbrough game which featured the youngster Nathan Ake, not to mention our usual substitutes Benayoun and Ferreira as starters). Rafa’s going to need to bring in young Ake, even if it’s just to ride bench. He is a much more comfortable option for the team at the moment than Ryan Betrand, who hasn’t yet figured out what kind of defender he wants to be. And how about the poor German, Marko Marin? What about that poor lad, who’s barely had 5 minutes on the field? Let’s give him a chance in this trying time when we mostly need some options.
Oscar has been a tad disappointing recently in the Premier League and overall since his ass-saving goal against Sparta Prague. He seems prone to giving the ball up too easily, missing shots and overall being unimpressive in the 18-yard-box. Despite this, I would bet on the Brazilian netting his first open play Premier League goal. He already has some screamers to his name (you know I’m talking about his debut-two against Juventus). With the rotation of the squad bound to leave Mata out of at least one game, hopefully he will have an opportunity to play in the number 10 position, which he favours when playing for Brazil.
While I’m on the topic of our Samba specialists, the issue of David Luiz and his nine yellow cards could pose a problem for the squad. While he can boastfully say he is one of the best defenders at the moment in the Premier League, he does get a little over zealous with his tackles. Rafa definitely needs to control this aspect of David’s play. It is not necessary for him to charge into every person who touches the ball for more than 3 seconds. Yes, his style of defending has worked well for the team so far, but with an impending ban over him, and such a busy few weeks ahead it is imperative that he chooses and times his tackles well. Perhaps he and Azpilicueta should swap a bit of their respective playing styles. While Azpi often chooses to allow the opposing player some room before closing him down, he needs some of David’s decisive action- cutting off anyone too near to our goal, even if it means giving away a corner in the process.
The interim manager has a tough couple of days ahead of him, with squad selection, etc. Once our stars are out on the field it should be no problem. Perhaps we’ll be able to see Ba and Torres finally start a game together. Or Benetiz may stubbornly stick to the 4-2-3-1 formation. Your move, Rafa.