If ever a game summed up last season it was surely the corresponding fixture against Swansea. Our performance was described by Matt Le Tisier as follows.
“Chelsea were outfought and out-battled today. Swansea just had much more desire than Chelsea had throughout the game. They were just quicker to second balls all over the pitch and thoroughly deserved the three points.”
Ironically it was Guus’s first defeat in the 15 games since he had arrived. Notwithstanding a very faint chance of a European place there was only a slight involvement of our very talented youth squad in what was essentially a “dead” fixture. The inclusion of Pato over Traore and the hooking of poor old Matt Miazga at half time the two stand out moments not to mention the late appearance of Falcao.
In fact considering this game is only technically 10 league games ago the likelihood is only Azpi who started that day is definite of their place on Sunday which even for us is quite astonishing.
Whilst this game doesn’t necessarily set the pulses racing in the same way a London Derby does or a game against the so called “bigger clubs”, playing Swansea does have a habit of producing headlines. There have been two huge stories in recent seasons and nothing to do with anything on the pitch. First there was Ball Boy Gate and then Evagate. Also if you cast your mind back 2 seasons ago a 5-0 demolition of the Swans at the Liberty was for some considered to be the last time we played really well in the title winning season or indeed in Jose’s reign. So without any real reason something invariably happens against Swansea.
So we travel to the Liberty with a 100% record for a 4pm televised game. All the pre-match Sky hype will inevitably be on David Luiz. In some respects that will be good as hopefully our pristine start to the season will remain under the radar. The fixture list has been kind to us but we are playing some decent football under Conte. For me he is a cautious manager ( based on the opening salvo at Watford) and it will be interesting to see whether he is willing to completely rejig our back four for an away game albeit one of those players will have played with other members of the defence before. The player one suspects under the biggest threat due to the new arrivals is Branna.
Our opponents have not had a great start to the season nor a particularly brilliant transfer window. They lost Ashley Williams to Everton which would have been a massive blow as not only is he a very good defender he was also club captain and a bit of a talisman. They also lost Andre Ayew and France’s euro hero Gomis. They did however bring in the experienced Spanish goalscorer Fernando Lollrente and club record signing from Athletico Madrid Borja Baston.They also have in their ranks Montero the serial tormentor of Branna, who can forget how he gave him such a torrid afternoon on the first day of last season. He then gave Azpi similar treatment in the second game. Another one of their players who always appears to give a decent performance against us is Gylfi Sigurdsson. A goal threat and dead ball specialist. On the whole their squad is now fairly familiar in the Premier league as they established themselves over the last few seasons.
So what can we expect. It’s hard to tell. They won their first game away to Burnley yet then lost 2-0 at home to Hull. A game they dominated but got caught with two sucker punches. Their last game before the international break was another defeat this time to the champions Leicester (still seems weird typing that!) where they fought back from 2-0 down to give the Foxes a real scare in the last 30 minutes of that game.
The victory last April was their first in the Premier League against us although under the reign of the current Newcastle manager they beat us in the semi final of the League Cup. A 2-0 reverse at home and the 0-0 draw at the Liberty where our lack of fight and desire was hard to stomach.
The break is disliked by the majority of fans. From our perspective it was an unwarranted interruption to a really good start to the season and so I suspect this game could be quite tough. I do not think that many of our players had to travel great distances but most will not have returned until Thursday so the extra day from playing on the Sunday will help.
The Swansea faithful create good noise but so does our magnificent away support. There will be great excitement with travelling fans to welcome home the “Geezer”. For me a large part of his return is the buzz he will create both on and off the pitch. Whilst I am not expecting huge changes it will be interesting to see if Cesc gets a game. From watching Swansea they are a side who like to play football and are less intent on chasing and harrying than some of our other opponents so maybe a rare start for Fabregas? We shall see but if Eden carries on where he left off against Burnley he is impossible to deal with and I would hope that would help us win.
Contribution by Clayton Beerman @goalie59
Author of “Palpable Discord. A Year of drama and dissent at Chelsea” Published by Gate 17
Podder and blogger for The Chelsea Fancast