I think most expected this game to be a pretty lopsided affair, as apart from a pretty major gulf in talent, Chelsea had been playing regularly while Sparta hadn't played a game since early December. I don't think may would have predicted the flat performance in the first half then, in which Sparta probably had the three best chances despite Chelsea generally controlling the possession.
The second half started out much the same, with Chelsea looking generally poor until the 80th minute. Then Oscar came on, and continued to own European competition, scoring his 6th goal across both competitions just seconds after stepping onto the pitch. 1-0 with an away goal isn't exactly what I was hoping for, but it looks an awful lot better than a scoreless draw.
- I was not happy at all when I saw the starting lineup and both Juan Mata and Eden Hazard were starting. Playing Hazard makes perfect sense, as he should be relatively fresh after a 3-match suspension. Why not rest Mata on a cold night against weaker opposition though, especially with both Oscar and Yossi Benayoun available on the bench.
- While we're on the starting lineups, I'd have loved to have seen Petr Cech and his broken finger get the day off today. That said, I'd hate to be in Rafa Benitez's shoes if he tried to explain to Cech that he wasn't going to play against his old club.
- I had the Liverpool/Zenit game on the second television my living room during the first half, and comparing Fernando Torres to Luis Suarez was certainly interesting. Where Suarez was constantly on the shoulder of the last man back, Torres started running back toward his Chelsea teammates almost the second which they took possession from Sparta. Torres generally looks good when he doesn't do that, so it just infuriates me when I see him start trying to be involved in the buildup as opposed to providing a potential target for a quick strike and creating space for his teammates to exploit.
- Chelsea just can't continue to play this sort of system and expect results to improve. Our band of three and pivot are pushed way up the pitch, but our defensive line sits so deep that there are easy outlets on the counter every single time we turn the ball over. If we're going to press with our attackers after a turnover, it makes little sense for the defense to play such a low pressure style.
- That Oscar is really something, isn't he? He obviously needs to become more consistent, but he certainly shows flashes of absolute brilliance in basically every facet of his game.
- Having David Luiz, John Obi Mikel, John Terry, and Victor Moses back will be an awfully big boost to this squad. Terry, Luiz, and Mikel in particular should all be big additions, as we just look awful in the back when none of those three are available.
- As bad as this looked, at least we're not Liverpool.