Picking the Best Chelsea XI to Knock Down Wigan Athletic
Chelsea are preparing to face Wigan Athletic at Stamford Bridge knowing that they need a win to stay in third place and clear of Tottenham Hotspur. When the two teams met at the DW Stadium at the start of the season Chelsea emerged 2-0 victors as Branislav Ivanovic and Frank Lampard had the game sewn up inside the first 10 minutes.
Wigan are currently occupying the third relegation spot, level on points with 19th place Aston Villa. They have won one of their last 10 games and will be looking to capitalise on Chelsea's recent inability to hang on to a lead.
The hosts have been in front during their last four Premier League games but have only taken maximum points from one, falling to two draws and a loss in the others. This lack of concentration and discipline will need to be rectified quickly as anything other than a win against strong relegation candidates will spell disaster for the rest of the season.
Ashley Cole picked up his 100th England cap on Wednesday but left the action with a tight hamstring. Brazilian David Luiz also left that match early, seemingly suffering from the calf problem which has kept him out of the Chelsea side in recent weeks. However, both are fit to start in the Blues' next game.
Demba Ba is also fit to start, having been unceremoniously booted in the face against his former side Newcastle, Petr Cech has recovered from a broken finger suffered in the same game, and Eden Hazard will return having finished serving his suspension for lashing out at a ball-boy.
John Terry has been ruled out after suffering inflammation on his knee, and Victor Moses and John Obi Mikel are still on African Cup of Nations duty with Nigeria. With the return of key players, it would make sense for Benitez to try a new formation.
A 4-1-2-3 with Torres playing in between Juan Mata and Eden Hazard would afford ample opportunity for the striker to both create and score goals, with the added support of Frank Lampard and Oscar in the middle. Slotting Luiz in behind in the holding role still allows him to get involved in build-up play and releases Lampard from defensive duties, allowing him to concentrate on chasing Bobby Tambling's goal scoring record.
Another option is a 5-2-2-1.
This frees up the midfielders to attack as with three centre-backs as well as the full-backs, the defensive cover is increased. However, this option would be most effective with Demba Ba in the middle, as Fernando Torres has proven time and again that he is unable to play as the lone striker any more.
Alternatively, if Benitez decides to stick with the 4-2-3-1, these are the best players he could pick to fill the positions.
Whatever he does, Benitez will need to react quickly should Chelsea start to slip out of the game, as anything but a convincing win will undoubtedly be unacceptable to Roman Abramovich and the Chelsea fans.
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