Picking the Best Chelsea XI to Take Down Manchester City
Chelsea travel to Manchester City's Etihad Stadium four points behind the reigning Premier League champions. They need a win to be sure of remaining in the third spot in the league and will be looking to improve on recent performances.
Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole and Branislav Ivanovic were all rested for the Europa League tie against Sparta Prague in midweek, while Demba Ba was cup-tied. Those fresh legs will be needed if Chelsea are to compete with a team who boast the attacking talents of Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez, along with super sub Edin Dzeko.
As City's rivals, Manchester United, have discovered this season, attack is the best form of defence. The league leaders have conceded 31 goals, yet they are 12 points clear at the top of the league. This is due to the 62 goals they have scored thus far.
A conservative approach by Rafa Benitez would be understandable as he attempts to avoid incurring any more of the Chelsea fans' wrath. He could turn up at the home of every season ticket holder and offer to scrub their toilets with his toothbrush, and it would not make the slightest difference to the vitriol directed towards him by a significant section of the support.
Despite delusions to the contrary, it is unlikely that he will be in the job after the season is over, so he should make the most of the opportunity to show off his fabled tactical genius.
Deploying Mikel as the lone holding midfielder is a sensible move as he is more than capable of staying back to defend. This would also free up Mata to act as a false nine while Ba lurks as a Gary Linekar-esque poacher. Lampard would also be free to chase his 200th goal for the club.
There is also the slightly riskier option of swapping Lampard and Oscar in the holding role.
Oscar has been making tackles all over the park despite being given a more attacking remit, and since Lampard has a realistic chance of beating Bobby Tambling's all-time goalscoring record for the club, he's been far more focused going forward.
With this variety of options available to him, it is still a near certainty that Benitez will stick with the formula which has produced little beyond mediocrity in the four months since he took over from Roberto Di Matteo.
What do you think? Should Rafa take a risk to shake things up, or stick with the hit and miss 4-2-3-1?
Let me know in the comments or tweet me @agirlintheshed
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