Monterrey vs. Chelsea: Predicting Rafa Benitez's Starting XI in Yokohama

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Monterrey vs. Chelsea: Predicting Rafa Benitez's Starting XI in Yokohama
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Having touched down in the Land of the Rising Sun earlier this week, Chelsea began their preparation for the FIFA Club World Cup on Tuesday, ready for the trials ahead.

What is known is that the west London side will begin their tournament against North American giants, Monterrey, the current CONCACAF title holders, South America's version of the Champions League.

However, what isn’t known and is still very much up for debate is how the Champions League title-holders will line up in Yokohama.

BBC Sport already announced that John Terry would not be travelling with the rest of the Chelsea squad, but it’s still unclear how Rafa Benitez will carry out his duties.

It’s fair to say that, with the interim manager still in the bad books of many Chelsea fans, the Spanish boss will be fielding a strong starting XI in both matches that take place in Japan in order to bring home a trophy, and hopefully some support amongst the fanbase.

 

Defence

With Terry out of the picture through injury, it’s likely that David Luiz and Gary Cahill will take their place in the centre of the defence.

Clive Rose/Getty Images

The pair have started the last two matches alongside each other under Rafa Benitez, both of which they’ve won by a cumulative margin of seven goals.

Cesar Delgado managed to net two against Ulsan Hyundai in the quarter-final of this tournament and is likely to be Monterrey’s greatest threat on goal, giving the Chelsea central defenders the bulk of their problems.

One area of the pitch Monterrey will be anything but weak in is the wings, where Neri Cardozo, one of the Mexican champions' most dangerous weapons, likes to call home.

Therefore, the more defence-orientated figure of Branislav Ivanovic may be preferred to Cesar Azpilicueta, although that doesn’t mean the Serbian wouldn’t be inclined to bomb forward.

On the left side of the backline, it would seem almost certain that Ashley Cole retains his spot at full-back, although Ryan Bertrand will be available should Benitez wish to experiment.

The all-important fifth defender is certain to be Petr Cech in the Chelsea goal, with Ross Turnbull providing backup.

 

Midfield

An area in which the club invested heavily over the summer, the Chelsea midfield isn’t really a question of who to start but more who to omit from the lineup.

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As they have played all season long, the Blues are likely to start with two anchors in central midfield, bringing some stability to those more offensively programmed ahead.

So far under Benitez’s rule, it’s been Ramires and the manger's compatriot, Oriol Romeu, that have taken up their spots in midfield.

However, with BBC Sport recently announcing that the latter would be out for the next six months after requiring surgery, John Obi Mikel should return as the more defensive of this centre-midfield partnership.

It’s in attacking midfield where Chelsea’s real conundrum lies, spoiled for creative selection. On one hand, Benitez doesn’t want to risk any major injuries so may give some fringe players their chance, but is desperately trying to win confidence, so will probably play as strong an outfit as possible.

In this area of the pitch, that means Eden Hazard, Oscar and Juan Mata will take up their positions behind the striker(s).

If he does start, it will be Oscar that plays centrally while the other maestros bring ammunition from the wings. Since joining Chelsea, Oscar has shown that the continental game suits his style of play better, thriving in the Champions League at times.

Therefore, playing against the likes of Monterrey, Corinthians and Al Ahly should be a fine accommodation for the Brazilian starlet.

Other options to be considered will be the likes of Victor Moses and Marko Marin, although Daniel Sturridge will miss out with a hamstring injury.

 

Forward(s)

Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

As was expected to be the case, the arrival of Rafa Benitez has meant not only that Fernando Torres has retained his place as the side’s senior striker but that he’s flourishing under the man he worked with at Liverpool.

Although the rekindled relationship took its time in recovering what was once lost, Torres has now found his scoring boots again, netting four in his last two games.

With Sturridge missing with injury, there isn’t any other realistic striking options for Benitez to go with except his fellow Spaniard who is growing in confidence.

Torres travels to his side’s FIFA Club World Cup semi-final in Yokohama in fine scoring form, with momentum he’ll be looking to carry to the other side of the world.

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