Only a couple more days of international matches left for this October, and then we can start turning our attentions to the weekend and the massive showdown at Stamford Bridge between Chelsea and Manchester United, two foes who are more than familiar with each other, though this version of Chelsea will be something new for Mourinho.
That newness centers on Maurizio Sarri’s tactics and the metronome at the heart of midfield, Jorginho. In matchups past, Mourinho would often look to isolate Eden Hazard, either following him around man-to-man with Ander Herrera, or taking it in turns to hack him and literally kick him out of the game. But while Hazard remains critical to Chelsea’s success, Mourinho will have a second decision to make, regarding how to play Jorginho. Will he mark him tight with a withdrawn forward? Will he add another midfielder? Will he let him be and just cover up all the passing options? Mourinho remains the master of the spoiling tactics, so it will be quite intriguing how he will approach this challenge.
On Sunday, Poland approached the challenge with that familiar “let us hope for the best” attitude, ceding 70% of the possession to the visitors Italy and almost all the good chances, of which there were plenty. And still, Italy managed to wait until added-on time to find the breakthrough — Biraghi finishing off the cross by the most wonderfully named Kevin Lasagna. By then, Jorginho and Verratti amassed over 250 touches and 220 passes combined. It’s a good thing the Chelsea midfielder, who also hit the crossbar inside of the first minute and forced a great save from Szczesny 30 minutes later as well, has the whole week to rest up!
So, Italy finally break out of their winless run, and the Jorginho-Verratti combination pays off in midfield. And while it’s still only their second win in the past twelve months, should they beat Portugal in November, they would even win their Nations League group!
(Emerson was an unsused substitute. Zappacosta was watching on television, presumably.)