How Will Chelsea Line Up Against Basel?
Jose Mourinho has gradually settled back into his role after three months at the helm of his second stint as Chelsea manager, but the real test comes on Tuesday evening as the Portuguese coach begins his quest to win the Champions League.
The 50-year-old has endured a steady if unspectacular start to his reign at Stamford Bridge, losing 1-0 away to Everton on Saturday and struggling to motivate his side to reach top gear.
The most coveted club competition in world football may have eluded them for the best part of eight years, but if there is one thing that must be admired about Chelsea, it's their mentality of going out to get what they want.
And that goes hand-in-hand with their leader Mourinho, who this week insisted he would be disappointed if the Blues won the Europa League. It shows his focus is solely on securing his first Champions League title with the club, and his third overall, which would consequently make him the most successful manager in the history of European competition.
But first, they must secure a victory against familiar opposition after facing FC Basel in the Europa League semifinals last year. Mourinho's men are surefire favourites to overcome the Swiss side, and today we look at who he may pick for his Champions League bow.
GK: Petr Cech
Nobody will be more keen to play than the big Czech Republic 'keeper after Saturday's disappointing result. The 30-year-old is usually such a force but despite only facing five shots from the Everton attack, he would have been rather displeased with both himself and the back four after Steven Naismith's solitary strike proved to be the winner.
Cech was out of position on the goal, although he recovered to make some fine saves, and Chelsea will be looking for their long-serving stalwart to lead by example and put in an assured performance against a team they know very well.
RB: Cesar Azpilicueta
There's no better time for Jose Mourinho to use Cesar Azpilicueta, despite the Spaniard not featuring in any of Chelsea's first four games in the Premier League. The 24-year-old, who impressed in his debut season after moving from French outfit Marseille last summer, has been made to wait patiently while Branislav Ivanovic is picked ahead of him.
He was not even in the squad for the match against Everton, but this could suggest Azpilicueta will be handed a chance to impress his new manager in the Champions League. A pacy, tireless full-back, his positioning requires improvement, but a start against Basel would certainly prove to be a timely boost to his confidence.
CB: Gary Cahill
Another absentee against Everton, Gary Cahill will be buoyed by his start to the season, having looked to be a contender for a summer exit earlier on. The 27-year-old has recently become a regular in the England side and his international form has carried over to club level too, producing some superb defensive performances early in the season.
With David Luiz and John Terry the chosen partnership on Saturday, it would appear that Mourinho is looking to maximise the options in his squad in a bid to maintain freshness. As a result, the tactician is likely to be more comfortable placing Cahill up against tricky Egyptian forward Mohamed Salah, who scored against the Blues earlier this year, than Luiz.
CB: John Terry
Captain, leader or just a world-class defender, John Terry has reinstated himself as one of the first names on the teamsheet once again after finding his feet under a familiar face. The academy graduate has been ever-present so far under Jose Mourinho, and it's no coincidence that the Blues have conceded just twice in the first four matches.
Now it's up to the 32-year-old to show that he can perform to a similar level in the Champions League, and help pick up his teammates by inspiring them to a comfortable victory on Matchday 1 in Group E.
LB: Ashley Cole
It's possible that this year could be Ashley Cole's last at Chelsea, as his contract expires next summer. But that won't stop the 32-year-old from proving to Jose Mourinho he still has what it takes to perform at the highest level.
While he may have lost some of his blistering pace, his engine remains intact, allowing Cole to operate down the left-hand side as both as defensive and attacking full-back. He'll play a crucial role in snuffing out the threat posed by Basel's dangerous attacking force of Salah and Marco Streller.
CM: Marco van Ginkel
He's only made one substitute appearance for the Blues this season, but the feeling around Dutch sensation Marco van Ginkel is that he will eventually replace their ageing midfielder Frank Lampard. In that case, is there a better time to unleash the 20-year-old?
As a smart passer of the ball and calm in possession, van Ginkel is said to be rated very highly by Mourinho and was convinced to join the Blues on the basis that he would not just sit on the bench. Hopefully against Basel on Tuesday, the Portuguese manager keeps his word.
CM: John Obi Mikel
The Nigerian midfielder looked set to be one of the summer departures to make way for new arrivals, so it comes as a surprise to see him named in the Champions League squad ahead of Michael Essien, a close ally of Mourinho.
But now the hard work starts for Mikel, who was solid in the midfield against Everton but ultimately needs to improve his consistency if he is to hold down a regular spot, with competition fierce in the midfield area. If given the chance to perform, he can become an important member of the squad for the forthcoming campaign.
LW: Eden Hazard
Some will argue that the tricky Belgian winger has yet to hit top form under Mourinho yet, but then again, neither has the whole team. The 22-year-old enjoyed an impressive debut season after a £32 million move from Lille and must now seek to follow up with an improved performance in 2013-14.
Mourinho will be looking for Hazard to produce his enthralling direct runs, combining agility and pace, ensuring it's as difficult as possible for the Basel defence to cope him. He may have struggled against Everton, but the best players, like Hazard, always bounce back in style.
One of the more surprising arrivals this summer was the £30 million signing of Willian from Anzhi, with the Brazilian appearing to being on the verge of signing for Tottenham. However, the 24-year-old chose to join the Blues, and now he must prove his worth in the competition which propelled him into stardom.
With Juan Mata struggling for fitness, either one of Oscar or Willian can fill the void left by the Spaniard and prove they deserve to stay there. However, as the former played some part against Everton, Willian seems more likely to get the nod to make his highly-anticipated debut.
RW: Kevin De Bruyne
After a superb start to his Chelsea career, Kevin De Bruyne is another Belgian talent who is looking to make his mark at Stamford Bridge. And after playing against Hull to make his long-awaited bow for the Blues, his Champions League debut also looks set to become a reality.
His versatility means he can play either on the wing or in the playmaker role, but a player with his dynamism and creativity is best-placed on the flank to provide some much-needed width. Mourinho will be looking for his new-look attacking midfield to link up and provide some decent service for the striker, and you can bet De Bruyne has the quality to do that.
CF: Fernando Torres
For all of his critics regarding his lack of goals in the Premier League, nobody can deny that in European competition, Fernando Torres is a force to be reckoned with. The 29-year-old scored nine goals in 15 European games last season, including goals in the Europa League and European Super Cup finals.
He perhaps lacks the same killer touch in the final third, but the threat Torres poses means he is still a top striker, and after Samuel Eto'o's disappointing debut on Saturday, the former Liverpool striker is a surefire favourite to start against Basel, with goals expected from him.
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