Last week we celebrated the launch of FIFA 18 by looking at Chelsea legends and rating them were they to appear in the latest incarnation of the popular video game.
Well, now we look ahead to the new FIFA offering by dabbling in a little more fantasy football. This time we've been picking through the current rankings on FIFA for every player in the Chelsea squad, wondering what Antonio Conte's side would look like were he to pick his starting XI based solely on their power and pace stats.
Indeed, it's rather apt where Chelsea are concerned anyway. The Blues have been most successful in the Roman Abramovich era when they have combined those attributes in real life.
Just look back to Jose Mourinho's all-conquering side from 2004 to 2007 when Chelsea won back-to-back league titles along with two League Cups and an FA Cup. They also reached two Champions League semi-finals, taking down the likes of Barcelona along the way.
That Chelsea team was all about the power of John Terry, Claude Makelele, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba, with some pace and finesse thrown in from the likes of Arjen Robben and Damien Duff.
Indeed, when Michael Essien and Michael Ballack were later thrown into the mix, Chelsea were one of the strongest sides in European football. Few could match their physicality as they overpowered opponents.
So looking at the current squad, who makes it onto our FIFA strong list?
What we've done here is split our selection into two teams. Those with the best speed stats complete one line-up, while those who are strongest fill the other.
|Chelsea's muscle men|
|GK||Courtois (Positioning 86)|
|CB||David Luiz (81)|
Let's address a big issue first. Diego Costa is a Chelsea player, but we know in January he will be joining Atletico Madrid, returning to the Spanish capital after three years away.
Based on his stats for physicality in FIFA 18, he would be the first name on the teamsheet for Chelsea's attackers. There isn't a stronger player.
But we're choosing to ignore him here because he's a Chelsea player in name only—we know the reality (even in the virtual world) is far different, helped by the transfer window not being open.
That leaves it between Alvaro Morata and Michy Batshuayi to fight for the role of striker. However, we're not playing a lone front man here; instead, we're going for the best options when it comes to those physical attributes. With strength stats of 76 for Morata and 74 for Batshuayi, we're bringing back a strike partnership to Stamford Bridge.
That means there's one more attacking slot available, which Eden Hazard takes. The Belgian's strength may be just 66, but he's still a stronger option than the other attackers Conte has at his disposal.
That means a somewhat different look to what we're used to seeing since Conte took over in west London.
We're keeping a four-man midfield to make our formation a 3-4-1-2, which means wing-backs. Marcos Alonso and Davide Zappacosta start in those positions and, real world or not, it doesn't take much to guess that N'Golo Kante and Tiemoue Bakayoko offer the strongest partnership on pure strength alone in the middle.
At the back, David Luiz and Cesar Azpilicueta are familiar faces, but Gary Cahill is nudged out by new boy Antonio Rudiger who edges him by just one digit in the strength stakes, defeating Cahill 79-78.
We looked at positioning for our goalkeeper, and Thibaut Courtois' 86 makes him the superior choice.
The Fast and Furious
|Chelsea's speed demons|
|GK||Courtois (Sprint speed 46)|
|CB||David Luiz (70)|
So onto the speed demons, and this is where it gets interesting. Save for the attackers, our team of Power Rangers didn't look too much different to what we see week in, week out from Conte's Chelsea side. But on pace alone, there are some casualties.
Batshauyi returns to his familiar position on the bench, losing out as the main striker to Morata. Regardless of speed alone, that's good news for Chelsea as the Spaniard has notched seven goals in his first seven competitive matches for the Blues, proving what a threat he is in front of goal.
With Morata as the striker, it gives us the opportunity to have Hazard playing off him. The Belgian is Chelsea's fastest player on FIFA, with speed stats of 90. Thinking of how he and Morata terrorised Atletico Madrid in the Champions League recently, whets the appetite.
Willian completes our attacking options, although only just as rising star Charly Musonda—with pace stats of 87—ran him close, no pun intended.
From having Alonso and Zappacosta as our wing-backs based on physical strength, the latter is benched in favour of Victor Moses. Had he not been listed as a midfielder on FIFA, Kenedy would have become the left wing-back here as his speed is superior to Alonso, as is Zappacosta's. But with the Italian not being a lefty, Alonso keeps his place to provide the balance, giving us the usual Moses-Alonso combination on the flanks.
The midfield duo of Kante and Bakayoko remains the same.
And it's a case of as you were at the back, too, with Rudiger, Luiz and Azpilicueta's speed status proving the superior rearguard for our Chelsea side.
What's interesting here is how strong both line-ups still look, despite the stats dictating a different style of play. We haven't considered other qualities such as creativity or defensive acumen, however, on paper at least, both of these Chelsea sides would cause problems for most teams they would face.
Is this sign of strength in the virtual world a reflection of where Chelsea find themselves now?