So, I’m going to be the first to admit that having to analyse the same side in back to back matches is not easy, especially when the likelihood that anything you learned from the last match has any bearing on the return match. However, I think there are five things to look at from our perspective because Capital One Cup or not, this is a chance to see what kind of depth that Chelsea really have against a reasonable Manchester United side. I fully expect Ferguson to make a large number of changes, especially given the match that they have against Arsenal at the weekend.
While I don’t think anything that happened on Sunday should have any bearing on tonight’s result, I do think that it just might make one or two fringe players attempt to make an impact against a side that is still fairly decent.
First thing that I’m looking for: The suspensions of Fernando Torres and Branislav Ivanovic might be blessings in disguise.
Because of injuries to Daniel Sturridge and the adaptation of Cesar Azpilcueta to England, coupled with his return from knee surgery, has meant that Torres and Ivanovic have started more matches than anyone not named Petr Cech. That is a real problem, especially when you look at the fact that we could face 67 matches in total if we aim to reach every final.
I don’t think that Di Matteo would be as keen to rest either of them tonight, but the suspensions means that he has to. In the long run, I think it might really be the best thing to give both of them a bit of a breather.
The suspensions also mean that we will get to see Cesar Azpilicueta again, along with Daniel Sturridge as a lone striker.
We’ll get to Sturridge is just a minute, but first, I want to talk about Azpilicueta, a man who’s name isn’t easy to spell (trust me). I like Azpilicueta, but the problem has been that he’s been behind Ivanovic, who’s been in decent form. I have no doubts that Azpilicueta will be the long-term choice going forward at right back, but until now, he’s not really gotten a chance against a quality opponent. Tonight, he gets that chance, but the question for me is, can he really put pressure on Ivanovic’s place in the side? It would help, since he’s also in the CB rotation, but I also don’t know that Azpilicueta is as good a natural defender. More than likely, he’ll probably see Nani up against him, so it will be a nice test for the Spanish youngster,
Daniel Sturridge now has his chance to prove that he can really be a center forward.
This is a hot-button topic because I see many posting on the forums about how Sturridge should play at Torres’ expense because he gets goals and Torres seems to not be as clinical as you would expect. That logic would be much easier for me to see if we played with a forward who’s sole purpose was to score goals. Unfortunately, it’s not. If you read the forums, you may have seen a giant post of mine ahead of the United match highlighting exactly how Torres was instrumental in all three of Juan Mata’s chances against Tottenham just with his movement.
To sum it up here, the job of the center forward in our current system is to play intelligently with spaces and make sure that the three behind have room to play. If the center forward isn’t intelligent in working for the team, it will allow the three behind to have more than midfielders closing them down, but center backs will join in.
In essence, the idea is that the center forward will get 2 or 3 chances, but ultimately, the three behind will probably get another 3 or 4 between them. In addition, it makes the defence have to decide whether they give the center forward space behind by pressing or giving the midfield space and having to drop your own midfield deep. It’s something that Torres has done very well this season.
That’s where Sturridge finally comes in. From what I’ve seen from Sturridge over the last two seasons is a player that is so eager to impress that he wants to score goals all the time, sometimes picking to shoot when another player is in a better position. Because of the way we play, the striker must be able to play more in the framework of the team, rather than just looking for goals.
This will be his chance to show what he can do, especially because I think he gives us the closest thing to a “false nine” as we have with his ability to run at a defender and creating something from nothing.
Finally, we get to see a fit Marko Marin and see what he can do.
This might actually be the most important thing because he’s the one player that can adequately fill in for any of Juan Mata, Oscar, or Eden Hazard and play in the same style. His injury record has always been a concern, but he is a good player, and it will be the first time in a competitive match that we’ll get to see how he fits in.