I enjoyed reading our stand-in skipper’s comments on the long-haul flight out to Japan, for what many distracters call a Mickey Mouse cup. Petr Cech said the hassle of the journey and fixture pile up wasn’t difficult – winning the Champions league was difficult. You can’t argue with that logic can you? The Champions League is fought over the course of a gruelling season, after countless near misses, we finally got our hands on the big one after monumental efforts against the likes of Barcelona and Bayern Munich. For the World Club Championship, we admittedly have a long flight, but then it’s two games over four days and that’s it. It might be less of a challenge but we still have to play and win against the rest of the world’s very best – no easy task given strong opposition and the preparation time other sides have been afforded.
It’s pretty rare in football to only need a win or two to bag some shiny new silverware. Two other such examples, the Community Shield and the Super Cup, we’ve came out on the losing end so far this season. Two chances to boost our trophy cabinet have been wasted. We’ve got to have learnt from those mistakes and be absolutely focused on both games. After the Super Cup drumming at the hands of Falcao and Athletico Madrid I think Chelsea fans are owed some top performances at this tournament, the players should be busting a gut to bring back that trophy. I do think a few players owe us one. Our club have never won, nor competed in, this tournament before. It is an elusive prize missing from our trophy cabinet, as well as from the players’ medal collection. The chance to win this one doesn’t come around very often – we already know we definitely won’t get the chance to contest for it in 2013.
Going into the tournament we have some positives – two excellent results and some pleasing attacking performances and play has seen the confidence flooding back. No one epitomises this more than Fernando Torres, our season hinges on him finding the net and it’s fantastic to see him back in the groove and looking dangerous rather than depressed. The timing of form and spark from the side could be perfect for the games in Japan and the following cramped Christmas fixture list. The negative has to be the loss of Oriol Romeu who looked to be in fine form in midfield, his silky passing, vision, and constant willingness to be open and receive a pass will be sorely missed. We all wish him a speedy recover from his knee injury. Romeu is young and so should hopefully heal and recover well from such a serious injury.
It certainly leaves Benitez with a headache for the midfield anchor role. He has been alternating between Mikel and Romeu to great effect in his tenure so far. Now that option is no longer available, just as we face the prospect of a game every three days for the next three weeks or so. We saw Luiz come into midfield and look effortlessly comfortable there for the last fifteen against Nordsjaelland – this could be the short term option of choice. With Mikel facing a domestic suspension and then the African Cup of Nations it would make sense to get Luiz some game time on Thursday alongside fellow countryman Ramires. Lampard’s return is timely but ultimately his best role is breaking forward and would be ill-suited to a defensive role. Similarly Oscar can be a great creative spark in the position but perhaps lacks the muscle and discipline to break up opposition attacks. Benitez would do well to consider loanee recalls for Essien or McEachran and help boost midfield numbers as soon as possible. For Japan and the Capital One Cup we might see David Luiz fill in, in a position many a fan believe he could excel in.