Clearly, Wednesday night’s game with Spurs did not go as we wanted it to. Forget the stuff about the win streak record – sure, that would have been nice, but nobody remembers those kinds of stats. It was the manner of the performance, the complete lack of adventure going forward, and the ease with which Dele Alli found so much space at the back post for his two goals, that hurts the most.
Now is not the time to be pressing the panic button, obviously, and if we rewind 12 months then return to the present day we find a Chelsea side in rude health. Losing to your bitter rivals is a tough pill to swallow, but the bigger picture is one of overwhelming positivity for the Blues heading into 2017.
There’s a welcome break this weekend to gather our senses courtesy of the FA Cup, and we have been matched with League One outfit Peterborough at the Bridge on Sunday afternoon. The Posh are renowned for being a side that creates stacks of chances but who give plenty away at the other end of the pitch as well, and so we will certainly need to be on our guard. But what better time to get straight back in the saddle and return to winning ways.
Chelsea Team News
A clean bill of health affords Antonio Conte the opportunity to rest some weary legs, bring back some old favourites and blood some talented young players on the periphery of the starting eleven.
The likes of Asmir Begovic, Nathaniel Chalobah and Ola Aina have all featured in the EFL Cup this term, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them drafted in on Sunday. John Terry and Kurt Zouma have recently returned to full fitness after injury, and this might be an opportune time to blood them too. Other nearly men such as Cesc Fabregas, Branislav Ivanovic and Michy Batshuayi will also surely come under consideration.
Of course, second guessing a manager’s team selection for a cup competition is fraught with danger, and Conte may yet decide to play a full strength side in order to get back to winning ways immediately. We shall simply have to wait and see.
Chelsea v Peterborough Head to Head
Two previous meetings, two five-goal hammerings. In their pair of previous meetings – in 1965 and 2001 – the Blues of Chelsea have made rather light work of the blues of Peterborough with 5-0 and 5-1 winning scorelines.
Here’s a fun challenge for readers of a certain vintage: see if you can name the starting eleven that took to the field sixteen years ago. The answer is below:
Cudicini; Ferrer, Babayaro, Desailly, Terry; Poyet, Jokanovic, Wise, Harley; Hasselbaink, Zola.
How the Match Will Be Won
With all due respect, this is not a game against a side like Manchester City or Arsenal where Antonio Conte would be looking to make strategic decisions based on the strengths of his opponents.
Instead he comes up against a decent-on-their-day but unreliable Peterborough side at the Bridge, and as such it is the Italian holding all of the aces.
How the match will be won is based largely on the starting eleven he picks, but clearly he will be wanting to get his key players on the ball as often as possible. The Posh will do what all lower league opposition do against the big boys: defend deep and in numbers, and hope for a lucrative replay if they can hang on to a draw. Defensively, few questions will be asked of the Blues, so this seems as good an opportunity to blood the likes of Zouma and Terry.
Marcos Alonso had an ankle knock heading into the Spurs game and was substituted off, so we can assume he won’t take part. Possible replacement, Ola Aina, really caught the eye in pre-season and offers plenty of pace and trickery on the left flank.
But the key outlet for Chelsea will surely be Cesc Fabregas, who has been in fine form of late despite not being able to cement a permanent starting position. The Spaniard will pull the strings in the middle of the park, and assuming those in front of them are moving with authority it is likely that he will add to his assist tally here.
Should Michy Batshuayi start, then let’s hope he is given plenty of quality service. The Belgian has been starved of starting opportunities this term, and so his confidence will be boosted no end with a goal here. Given that Peterborough have conceded in 19 of 24 League One matches this term, he should be able to craft opportunities in front of goal.