Despite the dominant performance of his squad in their 6-0 Champions League defeat of Maribor, the match presented Chelsea F.C. manager Jose Mourinho with the latest of multiple injuries to players to contend with. Only fifteen minutes into the match, star striker Loic Remy left the pitch with what was later identified as a groin injury. Mourinho did not give any specific timeframe for Remy’s return, but indicated that in the case of muscular issues like this, it would likely be at least a couple of weeks. Remy’s injury came on the heels of Diego Costa coming back to the club from international play with an injury of his own. Neither player is expected to be available to play in the upcoming match against Manchester United this weekend.
In the match against Maribor, Remy was replaced by veteran Didier Drogba. Drogba has not seen a lot of playing time yet this season for Chelsea, but Mourinho has admitted that he would be the logical replacement while Remy was out despite not having the explosive athleticism he had in previous years. Mourinho did express disappointment with Drogba’s choice to take a penalty shot during the Maribor match when Eden Hazard is generally the first choice in those situations, but said that he was not as upset as he might have been since the goal was scored. Bucking the Mourinho method, however, is a historically poor choice for players which Drogba may want to avoid if he wants the opportunity to prove his value to the club during this period of opportunity while Remy is sidelined.
While not an ideal situation without Remy and Costa out, United have seen some significant defensive difficulties this season and Mourinho may still be able to take advantage of them even if he has fewer weapons. Without relying on Remy up front, Chelsea may rely on a different look to get the offense they will need, but with players like Hazard and Oscar in the mix, their attack is not exactly anemic. Mourinho excels at providing schemes that frustrate opposing game plans. While he may have earned a reputation for his defensive shapes and planning, particularly last campaign, there is little doubt that he will have something to give Louis Van Gaal and the United defense fits. Drogba could be an effective wild card in this match. He is motivated to earn a larger role, and he may well get the chance to put up or shut up. This match will provide a good opportunity to show that he is fit enough to contribute more minutes.
The next couple of weeks will say a lot about the depth of the Chelsea squad, and Mourinho’s ability to contend with multiple player injuries. The pieces are there. The successful season the club has put together was not solely because of the play of Remy and Costa. This weekend’s match against United will provide a good indication of how those pieces will look when asked to perform in slightly different roles. With Van Gaal’s squad continuing to struggle to define itself this season, the Chelsea side will still be expected by most to find a way to take home the three points and continue on their current trajectory.
Commentary By Jim Malone