A point against a newly promoted side away in the Premier League on the opening day? Could happen, tough luck to get that drawn out. A point against Arsenal at home, a team we have struggled with a lot over that last decade? You’d be content with it, accept it.
What was hard to swallow of course was the manner of the defeats, not just that we led in both games, but the manner of the performances, the fatigue. In both games we faded badly after 70 minutes and out defensive midfield and defence fell apart.
Chelsea are a different beast to Arsenal. This is a team that the vast majority would have down as finishing in in the top two, with a lot predicting they will win it. Logic dictates that we wont be as fortunate as we wear against Arsenal and that a Chelsea victory looks highly likely with their fearsome front 6 and superior fitness levels at the moment. Football, as they say, is a funny old game. After three draws in a row last year the feeling was much the same. A resilient performance and a superb match-winning block from Gareth Barry from a certain Samuel Eto’o was the spark that kick started our season. We can only hope for the same again this time around. We were lucky that day, we may need to be lucky again.
I don’t think they’ll be any more change with the centre backs but you never know with Martinez, neither Distin or Jagielka have had good starts to the season but you think it’d be Jagielka who’d most likely be taken out for Stones to keep the right foot, left foot combination. Distin has been very poor so far but his left foot might just keep him in the team. I’d also expect Barry and McCarthy to start but the script is the same, neither have had good starts, especially Barry who was lucky to stay on the pitch vs Leicester. Again I don’t think any change will happen. As much as we’re eager to see Besic, starting vs Chelsea at home seems unlikely. As does risking Gibson.
As for the front four, that is up for debate. Mirallas will play. Apart from that, all is unknown. Lukaku will probably play despite the toe injury, as will Steven Naismith. A 4-3-3 could be on the cards in the exact way we played vs Arsenal after Pienaar went off with Naismith as the ‘false 9’ flanked by Lukaku and Mirallas, with Osman sitting in behind. Eto’o has been signed to play. I feel a start is unlikely but he could replace Naismith in the above line up or Lukaku if not fully fit.
Injuries, new signings and doubts make this one of the most hard to predict line-ups and formations in a long time.
Mourinho loves his a mind game or two and whether Costa is our for 6 hours, 6 days or 6 weeks is anyones guess. Hopefully he doesn’t play as not only is he a good goalscorer, he completes a team that was severely lacking in a striker like him last year. I’d write off Drogba but he loves scoring against us, so I wont.
If Costa doesn’t play then Schürrle might start who’s not a natural in that position but still a great threat. Apart from that you’d expect them yo line up much the same as in recent weeks. McCarthy and Barry will need to do a very good job against Oscar and Fabregas.
Goodison is Goodison. We know it wont be easy for Chelsea. The fatigue has been a massive issue for us and may play it’s part again, Martinez needs to be quicker with his substitutions. He was hampered by the Pienaar and Lukaku injuries last time out but Lukaku was exhausted about 10 minutes before he came off, and Mirallas was still putting in a shift when a defensive midfielder may have been a wise choice. In all honesty, i’m expecting a loss. That or another Steven Naismith winner. . .