Here we go again. We’ve been here before, not too long ago. Sometime in December, after losing to the red scousers twice in 2 weeks, and capitulating to an away loss at Leverkusen. Despite handing 3-0 drubbings to both Wolves and Newcastle, (a lucky result according to the media who ignored five Studge one-on-ones and focused on the fact that they managed to hit the woodwork about 3 times compared to us doing that once, 4-3 win for us, no? I digress) we were the underdogs, in a Champions League ‘win or go home’ home tie. The outcome? Another 3-0 drubbing. This time there was no doubt we deserved the win. But what did the media do? They said it was vintage Chelsea, AVB had ditched the high-line and gone back to Mou’s framework with his job on the line. Bollocks. Anyone can decide to play counter attacking football, and it worked – on the day.
That was a different Chelsea. You could identify the strengths (possession, control, chance creation, attacking gung-ho football, energy), and the weaknesses (the ‘mythical’ high-line, Torres issues, Drogba’s fitness, conceding late goals etc). This Chelsea, facing Napoli tomorrow – I don’t get them. I can’t see their style of play, cause there’s no clear style of play! They hardly create any clear chances and just appear so dour every time. They don’t even have any recent 3-0 drubbings, plus it’s an away game. I still feel as deeply confident as I did before Valencia. To quote Walter Mazzarri:
but their team is one of champions, who are all used to the atmosphere of great international events. I’m sure that they will regroup for the occasion
I expect no less from this team.
The one link we have with this team is the legenda that is Zola who came as close as anyone ever did to recreating his mentor, El Diego’s exploits in the great Italian city.
So I did some quick research and I could hardly find any trends. They seem to do well in big games in the league, but their form is too mixed. Home or away, big team or small fry, no streaks. Is that a good or a bad thing, considering they’ve won their last 2 games without conceding? I wouldn’t know because a team can always continue in form, but I certainly do hope some of that inconsistency kicks in today.
Its all about the Hamsik, Lavezzi and Cavani trinity. Also worth noting that Lavezzi and Pandev have the same no of league goals (5), so the latter could be dangerous off the bench. They defend pretty well at home and will be solid at the back despite Campagnaro being out. Can his replacement, Grava, handle the Drog?
They shouldn’t change much in shape, expect to see a similar lineup to what we’ve seen recently
JT is doubtful. Ash is back. Lamps is back. Drogs is back? ‘Spine minus John Terry’, is back. Add Ramires to that.
4-3-3 or 4-3-2-1?
Need all 3 midfielders to match Napoli’s hard midfield and cut off supply to the attacking 3.
With Mata drifting in, and Sturridge naturally running into the box, it might look like a 4-4-2 diamond in some attacking transitions, but by default a 4-3-3 would match itself, if that’s what they go with.
Another alternative is a 4-5-1 with either Ramires on the right, or Malouda on the left. That would surprise signor Mazzarri, and give us more control of the midfield, possibly leaving Edinson et al lost upfront.
Drogba or Torres?
Didier. Why? Because we’re better off playing to his strengths in an away Champions League knockout game. Meaning: Targetman, Studge and Rami counter attacks, Mata drifting into middle occasionally but primarily creating from the left. And also because we are not playing any crisp football nowadays and nino has nothing to feed on.
But we all know there are 2 Didiers. The up-for-it-unplayable one(a la Valencia) and the give-fuck-all one. Doesn’t take you 10mins to spot which one is playing. If the latter turns up I won’t mind him being taken off early cause its all about the team.
I would say the strongest back four we have available is Brana-Luiz-Cahill-Ash. AVB would go with either that or Bosingwa in for Cahill with Brana at center back. Doesn’t really matter to me that Cahill has never played in the Champions league, I’m not ready to see ‘How Ezequiel raped Jose part 1’.
If JT passes a late fitness test, then I’d like to see him play where I put Cahill. We’re just so much better in games like these with JT in defence, even when he’s 70% fit. You can’t recreate the leadership and organization he brings to the defence, and the team as a whole.
Remember one thing those 3-0 drubbings had in common? Oriol. Naturally I should go for Romeu-Lamps/Raul-Ramires. But I haven’t seen him perform recently and would like to see Essien-Lamps-Ramires in the mix of things.
The rest of the team picks itself: Cech, Sturridge and Mata.
We have no excuses not to turn up for this game. The boys need to stand up and be counted, not underestimate our opponents, and play for that shirt. Great nights in Italy like ‘Dennis Wise at the San Siro’ spring to mind, hoping we can add to that.
2-2. Cavani(1-0), Drogba(1-1), Lampard(1-2), Cavani(2-2).
I’d take a score draw, but if i know my Chelsea – which I certainly do – It’s not farfetched for them to follow up a loss at Everton plus a draw at home to Birmingham with a resounding, critic-bashing drubbing.
WOLUTB and KTBFFH