Chelsea FC: Predicting the Starting XI Against Wigan Athletic
Andre Villas-Boas's men have been on a comeback trail and in impressive fashion too.
After a sudden dip in performance that saw the Blues get humiliated by rival teams and fall off from the top four, AVB's squad has fought their way back into the league race. They registered comfortable wins against Wolves and Newcastle before rounding them off with a win against league leaders Manchester City.
The win not only blew open the title race once again but also helped as a morale booster for the team.
In between those matches, Chelsea also guaranteed themselves a spot in the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League by registering a brilliant win against Valencia.
When the resurgent Blues visit the DW Stadium on Saturday, they will be determined to continue the resurrection of their season by ensuring all three points against the Latics. Roberto Martinez's boys are fighting relegation after a string of poor performances, and they should not prove to be too much of a trouble for the high-flying Blues.
In the following slides we take a look into the possible starting XI that Villas-Boas might field against Wigan on Saturday.
Andre Villas-Boas seems unlikely to fiddle around with his formation. He will surely stick to the one that has helped resurrect his squad's falling fortunes.
Chelsea will likely play the 4-3-3 formation, possibly with a high defensive line if Villas-Boas really wants his players to adapt to that style. Against Manchester City his high-line tactic failed, and only a change to deep defending improved Chelsea's play.
Chelsea's defenders, especially John Terry, have failed to adapt to their manager's changed style, and his uneasiness has been evident. So Villas-Boas might use this match to try and make them a little more easy, and with Wigan fighting relegation, his tactics might actually even work.
Goalkeeper: Petr Cech
The arrival of Thibaut Cortouis has raised doubts about Chelsea's first-choice goalie, Petr Cech's future.
The Czech international is undoubtedly one of the best goalkeepers in the world and has been pretty steady this season. Though he has rubbished reports of him being unable to continue much longer due to his head injury, the arrival of the young goalkeeper is expected to increase competition for starting roles. But that does not happen before next season.
For this season Cech is the default choice, and against Wigan there is nothing exceptional to happen.
Right Back: Jose Bosingwa
The Portuguese had some troubles defending, which is now a known fact, but his movements down the right flank, combined with his crosses, were invaluable against City.
Bosingwa has some serious flaws while defending, which has often cost Chelsea dearly, but in his last appearance the former Porto man did both his job impressively.
He kept Silva at bay quite well early in the first half and later on when the game turned in Chelsea's favor, he played his part in the action quite brilliantly. He provided Chelsea width down the right and created some superb opportunities which his teammates failed to convert.
Bosingwa has recently seen himself warming benches with Ivanovic emerging as Villas-Boas's more preferred option.
With David Luiz likely to come back this week, Bosingwa seems the more likely to get the cut. But given his impressive display last week, the Chelsea manager might actually give him another start, and Bosingwa too will try to deliver another performance like his last one to try and secure a first-team spot.
Centre Back: John Terry
Captain Fantastic has been solid for the Blues this season despite reports of him being unable to adapt to Villas-Boas's new strategy.
The England captain has looked uncomfortable playing with a high defensive line, but nonetheless he has been rock-steady for the Blues. His past few performances have only added to his credential as the Blues legend has looked determined to prove his critics wrong.
Though Terry has been troubled this season with his on-field antics, his performance has not suffered much.
His performances have put a lid on the voices airing their concern over his lack of fitness and pace. Terry has lost some pace and has often been outpaced by opposition strikers but his strength, determination and commitment has overcome those little hurdles.
The captain will undoubtedly keep his place at the heart of the Chelsea defense when they face Wigan Athletic.
Centre Back: David Luiz
Chelsea's promising but often erratic youngster, David Luiz, is sure to return in the Blues' clash against Wigan.
The 24-year-old Brazilian missed out Chelsea's clash against the Citizens while serving a one-match ban. The youngster has been impressive for the Blues so far but his often-rash tackles and failure to maintain composure has attracted lots of criticism.
But those can be attributed to lack of experience, otherwise he has been very consistent in his performances.
So Villas-Boas will surely include the highly rated defender in his plans this weekend as Chelsea aim to reduce the difference at the top of the league.
Left Back: Ashley Cole
The English international has failed to repeat last season's exploits but is nonetheless an obvious choice.
Ashley Cole provides Chelsea with lots of width and attacking options down the flanks. His pacy runs against the run of play is a constant menace for opposition defenses. Regarding defending, Cole is still considered one of the best left-backs in football history.
Though he has looked a bit rusty at times this season, the position of left-back is still owned by him and Villas-Boas is unlikely to change that.
Central Defensive Midfielder: Oriol Romeu
Chelsea's newest recruit this summer, Barcelona youngster Oriol Romeu, has already started showing plenty of promise in the past few matches. His impressive exploits at the heart of Chelsea midfield has forced first-choice Mikel to the bench.
The highly talented midfielder has looked confident and mature since making his first full-time start against Wolves.
He has been accurate in ball distribution and also displayed a wide variety of passes. Against Manchester City he showed remarkable temperament without getting harrowed and flustered despite immense pressure. He has returned Villas-Boas's faith in him pretty well and looks set to make the holding midfield his own.
Given the youngster's exploits over the last couple of matches, it is unlikely that Villas-Boas will replace him. So Romeu is the favourite to start against Wigan on Saturday undoubtedly.
Central Midfield: Ramires
The Man of the Match against Manchester City last Monday, the Brazilian has proved his doubters wrong.
After a slow start to his Chelsea career, Ramires has finally adapted to the Premier League and that is starting to show. He never stops running and always keeps his opposition on their toes with his frequent incisive runs.
He is only getting better with every passing match and could well become a vital part of Villas-Boas's revolutionized Chelsea.
His affinity to hang onto balls forces opposition defenders to foul and get carded, like what happened to Clichy. He has guaranteed himself a first-team spot with his exploits, and there is no chance of Villas-Boas benching him against Wigan.
Central Midfield: Frank Lampard
Chelsea and England legend Frank Lampard has seen him fall down the pecking order at Stamford Bridge.
The midfielder, who is regarded as one the best of all time, has seen his playing time reduced considerably. His role has been scaled down to a substitute in the last couple of matches as the midfield combination of Meireles, Ramires and Romeu has clicked and looked pretty confident.
The Englishman has failed to replicate his past performances but is still the highest goal-scorer for his club this season.
Lampard scored the winner against the Citizens after being brought out as a substitute. He expressed his displeasure at being left out of the starting XI in possibly the squad's most important game of the season, with Raul Meireles getting the nod ahead of him.
Villas-Boas is likely to rest Meireles for the game against Wigan, handing Lampard a place in the starting lineup to end his rumoured frustrations as well as end any speculations of a rift.
Left Wing: Juan Mata
Chelsea's highly rated summer signing, Juan Mata, has been undoubtedly been one of the best performers for the Blues this season.
His lightning pace and world-class dribbling abilities has made him the live wire in the Blues' midfield. He plays a vital role in Chelsea's attack, creating chances out of nowhere for the strikers as well as converting half chances to goals with his own efforts.
He has really been Chelsea's best deal in recent memory. His presence is a constant threat to opposition defenses. The arrival of the Spaniard has ended Malouda's Chelsea career, with Mata making the position in left wing his own.
Given his present form, Mata might emerge as Stamford Bridge's next big hero come the end of the season. He is guaranteed a start against Wigan, and the Latics defense is surely going to have a nightmarish experience controlling the wing wizard from Spain.
Right Wing: Daniel Sturridge
Daniel Sturridge has been nothing short of a revelation in the new season. After an impressive loan term in Bolton last season, the Chelsea youngster has forced his way into the first team.
His meteoric rise led to Anelka falling out of favour and ultimately leaving for China. He has already scored seven goals in a mere 11 appearances and looks all set to become a Chelsea legend.
His speed burst along the flanks has troubled his oppositions constantly and, combined with great ball control and technique, he is slowly turning into a nightmare for opposition defenders.
Though he seems selfish at times hanging onto balls too long or trying to score goals alone, he is undoubtedly one of the best things to happen to Chelsea this season.
After his power-packed performance against Manchester City on Monday, when he played vital roles in both the Chelsea goals, there is no doubt about Sturridge starting against Wigan. It remains to be seen how many goals does he add to his tally.
Striker: Fernando Torres
The biggest news of this week was reports of Chelsea being ready to offload their £50 million flop Fernando Torres in the January transfer window for as cheap as £20 millions in order to cut back on their losses.
Chelsea have nonetheless rubbished such reports and Villas-Boas has stated that the misfiring Spaniard is not for sale.
But the voices of concern have already been raised as to the feasibility of keeping El Nino for too long. The ex-Liverpool man has been in dismal form since his arrival at Stamford Bridge and despite promising to live up to his hefty price tag, Torres has nevertheless failed to perform. Moreover, with Didier Drogba hitting top gear, Torres has seen his playing time reduced considerably over the past few weeks.
With in-form Drogba set to leave for the African Nations Cup in January, it is being suspected that Chelsea will give Torres one final chance to prove his worth or else he might be sold off.
Chelsea are already being linked with a number of strikers, most notably Real Madrid's out-of-favour Higuain, and though the club has refuted all such reports, it might not be unsurprising if they sell Torres and bring in some new faces.
Villas-Boas is likely to rest his in-form Ivorian forward and give a chance for Torres to prove his worth when the West London outfit visits DW Stadium on Saturday. This might be the one of the last chances Torres will get to prove his class, and if he starts, at least a goal is expected.
Andre Villas-Boas might be tempted to give some of his youngsters some playing time against Wigan to earn valuable experience.
Hence, the bench strength is likely to consist of backup goalie Ross Turnbull, with Ivanovic and Ryan Bertrand providing for defensive cover, Meireles and Mikel likely replacements for the midfielders, and youngster Romelu Lukaku and Didier Drogba providing attacking options.