Are Chelsea serial champions? This is the question Jose Mourinho posed to his team during his pre-match press conference on Monday. The Blues are set to take on FC Porto in the second match day of the Champions League.
“There are two sorts of champions. There are those who win something, and there are lots of them. But there are the other champions who, during their career, win one, two, three, four, five, 10 or 20 titles. In this club we have 25 champions from last year, but serial champions in this squad? John Terry, Jon Mikel [Obi] and [Branislav] Ivanovic are serial champions. Almost every season they have something in the pocket. But how many other serial champions do we have?”
If Chelsea are to be serial champions, their biggest enemy right now is their lack of consistency. It had looked as though the Blues had turned the corner, recording three wins in three matches against the likes of Maccabi Tel-Aviv, Arsenal, and Walsall.
However, this weekend was a far different story. Mourinho’s men failed to capitalize on Manchester City’s stumble against Tottenham, and remained 7 points behind the Citizens.
That being said, Chelsea have a chance to stay unbeaten in the Champions League. Their first match of the league went quite well, with the West Londoners defeating Maccabi 4-0. Regardless of how Chelsea played, they will need to up their game against FC Porto. They will be a much harder team as they currently sit in first place in the Portuguese League.
The Blues will want to watch out for players like Vincent Aboubakar, who leads Porto in scoring. The Cameroon international is Jackson Martinez’s replacement, and is getting on quite well in the position. Yacine Brahimi is also a top class player and will look to cause problems for Chelsea.
Furthermore, Mourinho will come up against his former goalkeeper from Real Madrid, Iker Casillas. The two parted on less than good terms to say the least. Mourinho is famously known for a falling out with the Spaniard, and removing him from the lineup. The Portuguese manager put Diego Lopez in his place.
From that moment on, Casillas never really found a rhythm again for club or country and was eventually allowed to leave for Porto this summer. He has been good enough to succeed in the Portuguese league thus far. It’ll be interesting to see if Chelsea can test him, and how he fairs against stronger attackers.
Chelsea will welcome Diego Costa back into the squad for this match, as he is banned domestically for another match. It is likely that Willian will start, given his impactful substitution at the weekend. It’ll be interesting to see if Ramires gets a continued run in the team, given his strong form thus far.
This is my projected lineup for the match:
Begovic keeps his place in goal, while Azpilicueta moves over to right back. Ivanovic has done enough to prove to Mourinho that he deserves to be dropped. Cahill and Terry will makeup the center back partnership, while Baba Rahman will make his third start at left back. This will be the first real test for the Ghanaian youngster. In the midfield, Chelsea will have both Matic and Ramires in the pivot. The attacking three will be made up of Hazard, Fabregas, and Willian. Up top, Diego Costa will look to get on the scoresheet for a second straight Champions League match.
This is how I believe the Blues will line up, though I’d rather see Oscar start.
Overall, it’ll be a good test for the Blues. If they are able to secure another three points, they will be in good shape going into their third match against Dynamo Kiev. Furthermore, it’ll give them a good chance to gain some momentum going into their match against Southampton at the weekend. My score prediction is Chelsea 2, Porto 0. It’ll be less than straightforward for the Blues, but Mourinho’s pre-game speech will be enough to guide them through, and they should record a second Champions League shutout.