Steaua Bucuresti vs. Chelsea: Players Who Must Perform for Jose Mourinho's Side
Chelsea’s 2-1 home loss to Basel during the first round of Champions League fixtures saw a number of Jose Mourinho’s players underperform.
As the Portuguese manager continues to chop and change his side, individual displays are being monitored with great intensity. Basel’s willingness to attack the Blues proved that, if Chelsea switch off, they will be punished against Europe’s best.
A trip to Steaua Bucharest looms, but can the Romanian league leaders follow the precedent set by their Swiss counterparts? Chelsea need a collective showing of quality, but a handful of individuals must perform if the side are to rack up their first Champions League points of the season.
Players Who Must Perform vs. Steaua Bucharest
Gary Cahill, Centre-Back
Arguably Chelsea’s best performer this season, Gary Cahill’s importance is becoming increasingly apparent with each passing game.
As reported by WhoScored, his 100 percent aerial success in the game against Basel highlights a player who can intimidate and halt the opposition with natural physicality. Cahill’s pass completion rate of 96 percent, combined with seven accurate long balls up the pitch, also underlines his willingness to start attacking moves from the back.
In fact, the Englishman’s ball-playing tendencies are becoming a feature of Chelsea’s play. Similar to David Luiz, Cahill is able to step out of defence and beyond the halfway line with powerful jaunts up the pitch. His ability to do this will pull Bucharest midfielders toward the centre, allowing Chelsea’s wingers extra time to operate down the flanks.
Juan Mata, Attacking midfield
Mourinho’s decision to bring Juan Mata on at half-time during the game with Tottenham helped Chelsea leave White Hart Lane with a point. Unfancied since the former Real Madrid boss took over at Stamford Bridge, it appears Mourinho is finally ready to give Mata a starting berth.
As reported by Henry Winter of The Telegraph, the Spaniard appears to be effectively adapting to the demanding needs of his manager:
During one break in play, Mourinho called Mata over and gave him a few instructions. The Spaniard listened intently before turning to rejoin the game. Mourinho pulled him back, slapped him on the back in encouragement and then sent him out into the fray. Mata looks back in from the cold and Chelsea look the better for it.
Mata was now primarily in the centre with Oscar left and Hazard in Ramires’s old right-sided slot. Ramires broke off from stifling Eriksen after 65 minutes and charged forward, earning a free-kick when crudely stopped by Vertonghen. Mata lifted in the dead-ball, Terry paraded his determination and timing and Chelsea were deservedly level.
Mata was given just 23 minutes to influence the game with Basel, but as Chelsea go in search of a much-needed win, expect the Spaniard to play a prominent part at the Arena Nationala. As noted when he floated in the assist for Terry’s equaliser against Spurs, Mata just needs one moment of magic to make a real difference.
Fernando Torres, Striker
After his red card in the game with Spurs, Fernando Torres is almost guaranteed to start Chelsea’s second Champions League fixture of the season. Throw in the fact he netted a vital goal in the side’s 3-2 aggregate win over Steaua in last year’s Europa League round of 16 tie, the £50 million man’s inclusion makes perfect sense.
Will Fernando Torres score against Steaua Bucharest?
Torres’ form has been much improved of late.
He netted in an impressive Capital One Cup performance against Swindon Town and looked eager before receiving his marching orders against Spurs. His confidence appeared to boom when Mata arrived on the pitch, and turning back the clock, his forward runs became both penetrative and selfless to the team’s cause.
The former Liverpool man must lead with an energetic work-rate versus Steaua. Chelsea are likely to come under decent pressure and must make their counterattacking play count. With his Spanish compatriot floating behind him, Torres’ ability to create space can see Mourinho’s side leave with a win.
He may only receive a handful of chances on goal, but as he did against Steaua last season, Torres must finish any opportunity passed his way.
Which players will be pivotal to Chelsea’s performance against Steaua Bucharest? Let us know in the comments section below and be sure to discuss the game with me on Twitter:
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