Liberty Stadium, Swansea
Saturday, November 03, 15:00 GMT
The league leaders march into the Liberty Stadium with a meek one point lead, but with a huge baggage of negative press on their backs after another week that left the club at the centre of possibly two racist incidents. Two stormy fixtures against Manchester United twice in a space of four days done with, the focus is now on a routine, but tricky fixture away from home for the visiting blues. There will be much temporary relief though for the team, as they get away from Stamford Bridge, after the last six days or so, to a calmer place in Wales.
Swansea City’s fortunes meanwhile have shown signs of revival after a shocking September blip which saw them lose heavy to Stoke, Aston Villa and Everton and register just one win against lowly Crawley Town in the Capital One Cup. Since then Swansea have drawn to Reading, won against Wigan, lost out very narrowly to Manchester City and have managed to beat Liverpool 1 – 3 in the League Cup fixture. November sees them faces potential relegation battlers in Southampton and West Brom(although the Baggies look very good for now), games that will be targeted as must wins. However, there is no doubt that Micheal Laudrup and his men will want to keep their momentum going. Being at home, there will be a huge motivation for Swansea to do well against a team that is vulnerable defensively and at present are likely to have a few heavy legs thanks to the unrelenting schedule.
If at all there is a lack of desire brought about by constant football and the fatigue, the game against Arsenal and Manchester United will provide Chelsea with an incentive to work harder for a win. The battle between Chelsea’s north London Rivals and Manchester United at Old Trafford will be done with before Roberto Di Matteo’s team take to the pitch against Micheal Laudrup’s Swansea. Chelsea need this victory to put their off field troubles to the back burner and also because the European Champions face an incredibly difficult schedule in November which sees them face Shaktar Donetsk, Liverpool, Juventus and Manchester City. Their ‘easier’ fixtures come in form of this game against Swansea, West Brom and a final November game against local rivals Fulham.
Team News & Tactical Brief
Other than the three points, the biggest loss that Swansea suffered from in the 1-0 defeat at the Etihad stadium was the injury to their goalkeeper Michel Vorm. The Dutchman is expected to be out till last week of December. Defender Chico is also a doubt for this match against the European champions after he limped off during the League Cup match against Liverpool. Left back Taylor remains the only other long-term injury concern for Swansea.
The Swans have played their strongest team against both Manchester City and Liverpool, with positive performances in both games. Therefore, Micheal Laudrup wouldn’t want to disturb a successful combination by changing things around, and Swansea can be expected to line up in a predictable fashion with Michu leading the line for the home team. Jonathan De Guzman and Leon Britton will anchor the midfield, with South Korean midfielder Ki Sung Yeung partnering them. Swansea will welcome Angel Rangel and youngster Ben Davies back into the fold after they were both rested for Jazz Richards and Dwight Tiendalli during the midweek cup tie against Liverpool. Monk will replace Chico in this match while Tremmel deputies in goal for the injured Vorm. The wide positions will see the trickery and guile of Pablo Hernandez and Nathan Dyer.
Swansea would look to take advantage of Chelsea’s vulnerability at the back. Michael Laudrup would look to set up his team for fast counter attacks to catch out Chelsea’s high back-line with the pace of Hernandez and Dyer.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-3-3): Tremmel (GK); Rangel, Monk, Williams, Davies; De Guzman, Sung Yeung, Britton, ; Hernandez, Michu, Dyer;
Roberto Di Matteo’s squad is one of the easiest to predict and given his penchant for stability, it is difficult to say that he is going to make a few changes. David Luiz, Ramires, Oscar, Hazard, Juan Mata, Mikel and Ivanovic are the ones in danger of a burnout. In midfield, Chelsea so suffer from a lack of viable options (also with Frank Lampard injured) which means that Ramires and Mikel are definite starters in midfield. It remains to be seen if Di Matteo will give new boy Cezar Azpilicueta his first start in the Premier League, that gives him the opportunity to move Ivanovic into the centre back position and rest Luiz for a bit.
Upfront Torres is expected to lead the line but the Chelsea manager could opt to play Sturridge or Victor Moses in place of one of Chelsea’s magical trio. When Di Matteo took over as interim manager for last season, the pressure to do well in the league was significantly lesser and as Chelsea trudged on in the Champions League, it became lesser still. It is at this point of the season when Di Matteo’s credentials as a potential long-term solution for Chelsea will truly be established. The European Champions are prone to a late October/early November slump and Di Matteo must avoid that at all costs or risk ruining the good start that Chelsea have had.
Marko Marin has apparently been working with the Chelsea medical team with a view to ending his recurrent injury woes. He has also been training alone with Greg Strommier, a development trainer. It is clear that Di Matteo and the club are taking the slow and steady option in order to set the German right for the long-term. He was named as part of the bench against United this Wednesday, which suggests that the winger is perhaps ready to make an appearance when the time is right.
Probable Starting Line up (4-2-3-1): Cech (GK); Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Cahill, Cole; Mikel, Ramires; Oscar, Hazard, Moses; Torres;
- Chelsea have scored 20 goals in their last six games in all competitions.
- The visitors haven’t managed a clean sheet in their last five fixtures.
- Swansea’s last home win against the Blues was in April 1981, when Robbie James, Neil Robinson and DzemalHadziabdicscored to secure a 3 – 0 victory.
- Swansea have managed to win just 2 out of their 5 fixtures at home this season.
Players To Watch Out For
Fernando Torres (Chelsea)
Not because he is particularly lighting up the pitch with his displays this season, but despite his sluggish presence, he has managed to get goals. And games like these present the Chelsea forward with yet another opportunity to add to his tally. He has scored against Swansea at Stamford Bridge once before getting sent off after a reckless challenge. With the January window looming not too far from now and with the murmurs linking Chelsea to a certain Falcao growing louder than ever before, Torres is literally battling for his future at this club now. He hasn’t ever looked at his devastating best for the Blues, and hopes have been lost on that front, but the least he could do is to score in routine fixtures such as this.
Pablo Hernandez (Swansea City)
Another Spaniard, like Torres, will be looking to leave his mark in this game. The former Valencia player hasn’t quite lived up to the exceptions surrounding him since his transfer this summer. But Hernandez from his time at Spain has a habit of pulling out excellent performances against big oppositions. European champions and league leaders Chelsea would certain add that extra bit of motivation for the 27-year-old winger. This match is perfectly set up for him to finally announce his arrival in England.
Swansea 1-2 Chelsea
Swansea have a sharp-looking attack in place and like to dominate possession. It is a trait that they share with Di Matteo’s new look Chelsea. It could be an extremely tight game with both sides seeking territorial dominance in midfield. On another day, Chelsea could perhaps overrun Swansea with the amount of talent they possess, but with more than a few tired legs in attack, it could be a laborious game for the London side. Despite their worries, one would reckon that the blues do have enough confidence and legs to manage a narrow victory at the Liberty Stadium.