Here we go guys, it's finally here! Chelsea are about to kick off their Premier League season! Are you excited? Probably not enough. : )
It's always nice to have a relatively-easy fixture up first, and Chelsea will certainly feel this is as good a first match as you can get. I like Wigan, and don't particularly wish to run up the score against them, but you have to imagine Chelsea winning easily. If we have the capability to be the team we want to be this season, that is. Of course, Wigan have all the tools to frustrate us, and Roberto Martinez is good and crafty manager, so we shouldn't be taking anything for granted.
With both sides sure to be looking to make an early statement, this should be a fun match. It may get horribly frustrating if we don't get our foot in the bus door early, but that's always difficult with a team like Wigan. Still, breaking down obdurate defences was one of our major problems last season, so this match should be a decent test for how we've managed to improve on that front.
Who: Chelsea FC v Wigan Athletic FC
Where: DW Stadium, Wigan.
When: Sunday, 19 August 2012, 13:30 BST [8:30am EST, 18:00 IST, 22:30 AEST]
TV: Sky 1 [UK], FOX Soccer Channel, FOX Deportes [US], Star Sports, ESPN HD [IND],Chelsea Team News: As reported here earlier, Marko Marin is still out, and Oscar might be handed his debut. Personally, I'm not certain RDM will actually throw Oscar in at the deep end like this, with just the one day of training under his belt, but Oscar is pretty handy at unlocking defences, which would probably be useful against Wigan. That said, we do have Juan Mata and Eden Hazard available who can do similar things. Picking a Chelsea front four is certainly not a job I'd particularly fancy having this weekend.
At the back, we should be pretty close to first-choice. It's Wigan, so there's the temptation to put out a weaker side, but our next match is against Reading, and this is our first proper match of the season, so there's little point in resting anyone.
In the centre, assuming RDM elects to use his 4-2-3-1 again, as is likely, I imagine we'll see the first-choice pairing of Lampard and Mikel, but I wouldn't be shocked to see Ramires there. Wigan are a team who generally need to park the bus against top teams. There's no shame in that, and it's something we have to deal with, which is where someone who can run at defences like Ramires could be very useful, especially when a true holder like Mikel is less important.
That brings us to the dreaded front four. As I said above, picking the front four is not a job I'd want to have. There is a strong argument for going all out and putting Hazard, Oscar, and Mata in the band of three, but if Ramires isn't selected in the pivot, it creates a big problem.Ideally, you'd want someone like Ramires in the team for Wigan, but who gets dropped? Hazard, as our biggest signing of the summer, seems unlikely, as does Mata, our reigning Player of the Year.That brings us to Ramires and Oscar, who both bring plenty to the table against a tight defence, Ramires with his pace and Oscar with his technical skill.
Up front, the choice seems simple. You'd probably pick Fernando Torres, both out of a desire to have the strongest team you can, and also to cement his No. 1 status. I'm not certain he's really the best option against Wigan. He thrives in space behind the defence, and, against Wigan, you're probably not going to get much of that. For me, Daniel Sturridge is the better option in a game like this. His game is less-oriented towards space behind defenders, and I'd say he'd be likely to play against Wigan later in the season. I fully expect Torres to start, though.
Projected Chelsea Lineup: Petr Cech; Branislav Ivanovic, David Luiz, John Terry, Ashley Cole; Frank Lampard, John Obi Mikel; Ramires, Juan Mata, Eden Hazard; Fernando Torres
My Preferred Lineup: Cech; Ivanovic, David Luiz, Terry, Cole; Ramires, Lampard; Hazard, Oscar, Mata; Sturridge