Gary Monk brings his charges to Stamford Bridge with the hope of repeating his previous season’s opening day. Chelsea welcome them at the Bridge as Champions, by and large the same as last season. Will it be substance over style? Who will win the battles in midfield, attack and defense? We try to answer
Chelsea began last season like a rampaging bull with demolishing victories over every team that came to them, going unbeaten until the visit to St. James’ Park. This season, they need to do better for the opponents are flying high on wings made of paper.
As for Swansea, who finished 8th last season, this could be the season that either cements Gary Monk and his men as credible top half team or as overachievers of a season gone by. They have coped well with the departures of star-man Bony, with Gomis stepping up to prove his mettle. Jordan Ayew is expected to start his first game for the Welsh side.
There will be players vying for superiority over their opponents all over the field. Some contests will be one sided, as will be the case with Hazard unless he decides to doze off during the game. There will still be some battles yet undecided, glory still to be achieved on the first day itself.
Swansea come into this game as a completely fit unit with everyone available for selection. There main stars would Shelvey, Sung Yeung, Gomis, Fabianski and perhaps Ayew. Gylfi Sigurdsson will be looking to repeat his start to the last campaign as well.
Chelsea go into the match with uncertainty over their lead striker Diego Costa, with Loic Remy and Falcao the possible alternatives for Mourinho. Other than that, the Champions have a full strength squad to chose and are largely the same as last season’s prominent XI unless Mourinho brings the rabbit out of the hat.
Here are the main possible contests of the game, or as they say Key Player Battles:
Oscar vs Federico Fernández:
If and possibly when Costa does not start the game, the onus will fall upon Hazard and Oscar to get the goals for the team. In his quest, Oscar will come up against inconsistent yet unpredictable Federico who will be looking to put shackles on the creativity of the Brazilian.
Besides, much is asked of Oscar this season and he would be willing to start doing the things that are expected of him. One of them is scoring goals like he did against Rangers last season. This game will mark the direction that Oscar is headed into and will be curious to see how the Brazilian manages expectations when he can no longer fall on his age as an excuse.
The Swansea defender will inturn try to keep the Chelsea triad in check but his main responsibilities would be the the front three of the Chelsea midfield in case Costa does not start, which is likely.
Oscar: Short Passing, Defensive Contribution
Federico: Interception, Passing
Oscar : Consistency
Bafétimbi Gomis vs John Terry:
John Terry has aged like a wine, getting better with every spring that passes. His legs might not have the same spring as earlier but the Captain, Leader, Legend was the best defender of the League last season. This game will stand testimony to how much more he can give Chelsea, and this should certainly not be his last season.
Gomis was an underrated player untill the Swans sold Wilfried Bony, the League’s top scorer of 2014. Once out of his comfort zone, Gomis had to lead the line as a lone striker. He did exceptionally well to fill in the boots of the Ivorian and did not allow for a stutter. He is threat from set pieces and good with his shooting. If Swansea decide to sit back and attack on the break, he is good with long balls too.
Mourinho’s squad has several players this season who are on the cusp of a major turn in their careers, it’s all about how they handle it this season. Oscar, Falcao, Zouma are in one frame, Terry remains in the other defying age. Just how long will the legend go on is the question then, and we shall get an apt answer today.
Terry: Reading the game, Passing
Terry: Agility (lack of)
Gomis: Awareness of Defensive line
Matic vs Shelvey:
Shelvey is the man that Monk would trust to do the creative deeds. He played 15 games last season as a defensive midfielder but excelled as an attacking threat in the five matches played as an attacking midfielder. He has long shots that can be very dangerous when allowed the time and space to shoot. He will excel if neglected and must be taken care of by the Giant himself.
Matic had been a mobile rock in Chelsea’s midfield last season. If Fabregas was the force that pushed, he was the one that held when pushed. Shielding the defense is dirty task, Matic makes it look like an art. With some good rest in the holidays, he should be back to his imperious best.
Matic: Tackling, Passing
Shelvey: Long Shots, Through Balls
Shelvey: Defensive Contribution
So there will be battles in all parts of the field and most of them will be dominated by Chelsea players. The only cause for concern is the striker and if that comes good Chelsea are good to go for a win in the first match. It is significant that Chelsea have never lost an opening day match in the history of the Premier League.