Before I move on to the key player battles for tomorrow’s encounter, I have got something to say. I have seen lots of people getting upset over the weekend loss at St. James Park but guys, think of it like this:
Every top side have their bogey team. e.g Arsenal has umm… sorry we were talking about top sides. Right! Like e.g. Chelsea struggled to win against Queen Park Rangers in the last decade or so. Our neighbours always proved to be a pain in the arse for us but, things changed, QPR got relegated and now we have a new bogey team in Newcastle United.
We have struggled to win at St. James Park in the last few years, no matter how good a form we are in, which further proves my point on our new bogey team. Just as every streak is meant to end, it was Newcastle who ended our unbeaten streak last weekend.
But guys, there’s no need to get paranoid as we are still top of the league in PL and have already qualified for the knock-out rounds in CL. What else do you expect? Truth is we are in a brilliant position in all the competitions, certainly better than any other PL club. ( After all if previous records are anything to go by, Newcastle would soon get relegated like QPR, so there’s that too).
Anyways, let’s talk about tomorrow’s encounter. Chelsea has already qualified for the KO stage so it’s just a matter of trying out our bench strength. Although, it might be a meaningless game in terms of result, but there are few players who would be dying to get on the pitch and get some minutes to impress the boss tomorrow. Here are few of the key player battles that might influence the outcome of this game:
ISLAM SLIMANI vs KURT ZOUMA
Sporting Lisbon’s top scorer with 6 goals in all the competition so far, Islam Slimani’s battle with Kurt Zouma would be the one to look out for at Stamford Bridge tomorrow.
The Algerian Forward has been quite impressive for the Primeira League side so far this season. The 26-year-old will probably have to get a goal if the Portuguese side hopes to progress for the Knock-Out round as it is highly unlikely that Chelsea would fail to score at home tomorrow. But for that to happen, Islam Slimani will first have to deal with the young Kurt Zouma.
The big Frenchman who is just 20 (!) years of age and has “Happy” as his middle name has been very impressive whenever he has started a game for the Blues this season. Apart from his vulnerability in the air (he can jump pretty high but can have a problem in dealing with the crosses), the defender looks a complete package for the Blues and more than capable of controlling and stopping Islam Slimani when he lines up against him tomorrow. Still, a good battle to watch out for!
RAMIRES vs WILLIAM CARVALHO
William Carvalho has been on the Chelsea radar for a long time now after his consistent impressive showings for the Portuguese side. The Defensive Midfielder has been immense for the Primeira League side creating six chances and one assist in his 5 Champions League appearances so far, as per squawka.com.
The 22-years-old Midfielder is quite brilliant at the job of shielding his defence and guarding his back four, similar to what Nemanja Matic does for Chelsea. Known for his hard tackle and physical play, the Portuguese will be up against Ramires when he lines up for the game at Stamford Bridge.
Ramires has mostly been out of the Chelsea side this season due to injuries and also due to some brilliant display by Cesc Fabregas in his position. The Brazilian has been reduced to a fringe player, but coming up against Carvalho and co., this will be his opportunity to make a mark on the side.
Known for his direct runs from the deep and physical plays, Ramires, when in form, is more than capable of causing problems to any top side in Europe (just ask Valdes and Barcelona). Come tomorrow, it would be the job of William Carvalho to stop those darting runs from the Brazilian and given their style of play, this battle certainly promises to be a physical one. Do watch out for it!
JEFFERSON NASCIMENTO vs MOHAMMED SALAH
Mohammed Salah has been reduced to the 5th choice AM this season who has even struggled to make the bench under Mourinho. Bought in January after the sale of Juan Mata, Salah has been unable to do justice to his abilities and has largely struggled for minutes this season. With January window just around the corner, this might be the last chance for the Right Winger to make his mark in the Blue outfit if he does hope for a career at Stamford Bridge.
Known for his explosive pace and good shooting abilities, the Egyptian would be up against the Sporting Lisbon Left-Back Jefferson Nascimento, when he starts tomorrow.
26-year-old Jefferson has been in great form for his side at the LB spot and it won’t be easy for Salah to impose himself at the wings but if the Egyptian is serious of staying at Stamford Bridge, he will have to use his pace and trickery to good effect in getting past the Brazilian fullback. It would be interesting to see if Salah is able to exploit the wings or the Egyptian succumbs to the pressure. Nevertheless, it would be a good battle to watch out for on our right side of the pitch.
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Edited By: Ankur Bhatt