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Fernando Torres, Right Winger?

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Chelsea have an important game coming up on Saturday. You may have noticed. They're also missing some important players for said game, none more so than Ramires, the Blues' Players' Player of the Year. That is bad news for Chelsea, because Ramires is the best winger on the team. His absence is going to cause some major problems.

Who's available to replace him on the wings? Salomon Kalou was always going to start. Juan Mata will be in the hole. Daniel Sturridge is mired in a months-long slump. Florent Malouda limped off against Blackburn Rovers on Sunday and might not be good enough to be playing in the Champions League final anyway. Playing one of the reserves or the youth team would be certifiably insane. So, assuming Roberto di Matteo plans on sticking with his 4-2-3-1 (and why wouldn't he?), we're not left with too many options.

But there is one that I haven't mentioned yet: Fernando Torres.

We should all be pretty well familiar the the Torres story. He arrived from Liverpool almost 14 months ago, and until Roberto di Matteo took over has never really even looked like a football player with Chelsea. Considering the transfer fee and wages, it's been incredibly difficult to watch his struggles with the club. He's a player many of us never wanted, and although his recent play seems to indicated that a corner might have been turned, he's hardly a striker we're going to trust in big games.

But still, he's available to fill in for Ramires on the right. We can assume that Didier Drogba will start at centre forward, which means that Torres won't need to be deployed there. I think we'd all rather have Juan Mata start in the hole rather than on a flank, and that basically leaves us with the option of Sturridge or Torres to plug the gap Ramires' suspension has created.

Torres has done reasonably well when he's drifted out to the flanks. Many people are talking him up as a winger because of one absolutely spectacular cross in February, but the reality of the situation is that he and Sturridge are, right now, essentially equivalent players. Both are displaced centre forwards who are quick and skillful enough to beat their fullbacks and get down the line, but they're both not fantastic passers or crossers* and their defensive ability is marginal.

*Sturridge is better at both than given credit for, Torres worse.

So is there any difference? Torres is on form, and Sturridge isn't. That's partially to do with where they've played and how often they've played, but while Sturridge has been looking increasingly lost under Roberto di Matteo, Torres has been slowly but surely finding his feet. The striker has seven goals in the past three months - not a phenomenal tally but already far more than he did in his first eleven combined - and since there's no real tactical difference between the two options you might as well reward the player who hasn't been terrible over the past couple of months.

Given the choice, I'd play Torres in the starting lineup on Saturday. No, it's not ideal, but he's probably the best option that we have.

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