Football is often a game of opinions and subjectivity, but here’s a simple fact that cannot be ignored: Chelsea were one moment of magic away from beating Liverpool twice in the space of 72 hours.
Daniel Sturridge’s fantastic late goal rescued a point for the Reds at the Bridge on Saturday as we once again showed we can mix it with a side predicted to be there or thereabouts in the title shake-up by many.
Eden Hazard’s wonderful left-footed goal, just desserts for his endeavour and quality, looked to have sealed the points for the Blues, but Sturridge had other ideas. He curled home a 25-yarder in the 89th minute to nick a point for the Merseysiders.
As it stands, we’re just two points behind Liverpool and Manchester City at the summit of the Premier League, and so all is good right now in the camp.
Embed from Getty Images
There’s a slight change of tact this week with the return of the Europa League, and on Thursday we welcome the Hungarian champions MOL Vidi to the Bridge.
Can they threaten our unbeaten start to the campaign? You would like to think not, and their 0-2 defeat to BATE Borisov in the opening round of fixtures suggests they are out of their depth at this level.
That said, let’s not rest on our laurels and instead claim a victory which would already put one foot in the knockout phase of the competition.
Chelsea Team NewsMaurizio Sarri showed plenty of intent in the 1-0 win at PAOK last time out in this tournament, fielding a strong starting eleven that suggested he fancies a good run at it.
But after three games in a week, you suspect he will make changes to his line-up with a trip to Southampton looming on Sunday.
Fringe players will be given a go, but that’s not as problematic as it sounds. The likes of Davide Zappacosta, Gary Cahill, Cesc Fabregas and Ross Barkley aren’t going to let us down.
Sarri may also choose to give game time if Pedro, Andreas Christensen and Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who have all been struggling with injury or illness lately, although a substitute’s role is probably more likely for the latter.
In attack, let’s hope Alvaro Morata is given the nod against what will be a weaker opponent than the norm; the Spaniard desperately needs a goal.
Chelsea vs MOL Vidi Head to HeadIt perhaps won’t come as any surprise to learn that the two teams have never met before!
But Vidi, who used to be called Videoton up until the start of this season, have been in and around the qualifying stages of the Champions League and Europa League before, which at least offers some context.
Last year they beat the French side, Bordeaux, on aggregate in qualifying for this competition, and held Partizan Belgrade to a 0-0 draw in the away leg there.
They were involved in the early qualifying rounds for the Champions League this season, beating Malmo on aggregate and going down by a single goal to AEK Athens.
In short, Chelsea should win but their Hungarian opponents won’t be complete pushovers by any means.
How the Match Will Be WonSo how will this match be won? It’s an interesting question given that we know very little about MOL Vidi.
Clearly, they are going to defend in numbers and then look to hit us on the break, with Danko Lazovic, who has played in the World Cup for Serbia, their obvious dangerman.
The Vidi coach, Marko Nikolic, has managed extensively in continental competition, primarily at Partizan and Olimpija, so don’t expect a naïve, eyes wide open style performance from the visitors.
Instead, the onus will be on us to break them down; a task we failed when tackling West Ham the other week.
But the Sarri template is getting nice and ingrained amongst the players, and with confidence high after the double-header against Liverpool you would have to expect the Blues to win comfortably enough.
Embed from Getty Images
The pace of Moses, the ingenuity of Pedro, the craft of Fabregas….whichever starting eleven Sarri opts for, it will be jam-packed with the kind of attacking players who can open the door against a defence-minded opponent.
We will be a danger from set plays too, as ever, and if we enjoy larges volumes of possession as expected then we should, at some point, make it count.
A victory, a clean sheet and a goal for Morata would be the perfect result on Thursday.