This week’s column will discuss Chelsea’s performance in the Premier League thus far and preview the Super Cup versus Bayern Munich to be played on Friday.
Jose Mourinho’s second spell as Chelsea manager has started off on a positive note. Seven points earned from a potential nine; six picked up from two home victories against Hull City and Aston Villa and one point picked up against Manchester United at Old Trafford. Not exactly three out of three, but a point away from home at our title contenders is not something to frown at.
The opening match of the Premier League was a grand spectacle, full of promise of what lies ahead for the season, however the last two matches have been more hard fought. Against Aston Villa the Blues lined up in a positive attacking formation, with Demba Ba leading the line and Juan Mata reintroduced in the midfield. A strong and determined Aston Villa side did not make it easy for the Blues. A well-struck Hazard shot, inevitably deflected in by Luna, put Chelsea ahead, the lead however was nullified by Benteke, who slotted home neatly just before the half-time whistle. Chelsea regained the lead through an Ivanovic header and the defence managed to keep out Villa, which was enough to see the Blues secure the three points. Chelsea opted to play long-balls forward for Demba Ba to chase, as opposed to the relying on short, quick, passing through the gaps which is usually evident in Chelsea’s style. The Blues maintained their 100 per cent record at Stamford Bridge for this season.
On Monday night Mourinho returned to Old Trafford as the Chelsea manager once again, upholding his terrific record against Manchester United of only three losses in seventeen matches played. The Special One’s team selection surprised most Chelsea fans and critics, when he announced a starting eleven with no recognised striker. Chelsea’s 2012/2013 Player of the Year and Players Player, Juan Mata, was also not included the starting eleven, despite Mourinho opting for a six man mid-field. The match was uneventful, with very little flair or excitement, and resulted in a stalemate. Both teams’ tactics seemed to cancel each other out. While United dominated the possession and created the most chances, Petr Cech was hardly tested as the defence managed to contain the deadly Robin Van Persie. Chelsea fans would not be happy to see their team sit back against their title rivals, however a solid performance from the side managed to contain any threats from the current Champions. The highly unlikely score between two top clubs could potentially be as a result of the match, often dubbed as a “title deciding fixture”, being played so early in the campaign.
There are positives to be taken from the somewhat lacklustre display against United. The Blues defended extremely well, silencing last season’s golden boot winner seemingly effortlessly, maintaining a second clean sheet of the campaign and leaving their title rivals having secured a point. These defensive qualities will be called upon in Chelsea’s next test against the current UEFA Champions, Bayern Munich.
On Friday, Chelsea will play in their second consecutive Super Cup match, however qualifying this year as the Europa League winners and not Champions League winners. Chelsea will face a very strong and talented Bayern Munich side, which not only were crowned Champions of Europe, but also won their Domestic League and Cup. Despite coming into the match as underdogs, Chelsea will be determined to win the Super Cup, after failing to do so last year, and Mourinho will be determined to show-up his old foe Pep Guardiola. Bayern have started their domestic campaign well, with three wins in their first three matches played, but were held to a draw by Freiburg on Tuesday evening.
In their most recent encounter, a day all Chelsea fans will treasure, Chelsea beat Bayern Munich in the 2011/2012 Champions League final, in Munich. Chelsea won that match as a result of a very strong defensive display, criticized as a “park the bus” strategy. It will be very interesting to see whether Mourinho chooses to play with a defensive approach, one he has often selected as Chelsea manager, or whether he will play a more attacking formation and take the game to Bayern. After three competitive matches played, it is clear that Mourinho is content with his defensive line-up, however there has been much shuffling around of players in mid-field and attack. Will Mourinho leave Chelsea’s magician Mata on the bench? Will he once again opt to play without a recognised centre-forward? Furthermore, if a centre-forward is selected, who will get the nod, Torres, Ba or young Lukaku?
Much is to be decided and it will be interesting to see who Mourinho selects to start the match against Bayern, but one thing is for sure, whatever the team selection, whatever the formation, the objective will be the same, WIN!
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Pep Form 13/14
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Mourinho Form 13/14
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