Chelsea put in another fantastic performance last night in the Champions League to put Slovenian side Maribor to the sword. The Blues ran out 6-0 winners, with Eden Hazard being the centre of attention again, scoring twice. The victory though, was marred by an injury to striker Loic Remy. The Frenchman scored the first goal, but in doing so, did some damage to his left groin. He was immediately taken off in place of Didier Drogba.
Just a day after we analysed how Diego Costa’s absence could affect Chelsea this season, Jose Mourinho now faces a crisis. The Portuguese confirmed after the game last night that Remy would be out for around two weeks, while it was also unlikely that Costa would start at the weekend against Manchester United.
Chelsea’s squad-depth is one of the major reasons why they are considered favourites for the title this season. Now, it will be put to the ultimate test. In the absence of his first and second-choice strikers, Mourinho has a big call to take this Sunday at Old Trafford.
Here are three options he has:
1) Play Drogba
Mourinho admitted after the game last night that he had only planned to play Drogba for 30 minutes. Remy’s injury though, meant that the Ivorian had to stay on the pitch for more than three-quarters of the game. The 36 year-old is a shadow of his former self in terms of pace, but did get on the scoresheet from the penalty spot.
Mourinho may have no other option but to start Drogba on Sunday. On the basis of last night’s performance though, it shouldn’t be too much of a problem. The veteran’s hold-up play and passing ability is still as good as ever, and with United faces huge problems at the back, Drogba’s commanding presence will terrorise the hosts. His fitness though, remains a big concern. It is close to impossible that he will be able to complete 90 minutes after last night’s prolonged appearance.
2) False Number 9
The option of the false number 9 is one that Mourinho will surely consider looking at the resources that he has at his disposal. This system involves playing an attacking midfielder in the number 9 role up front. The player though, drops deep and contributes a lot to the link-up play.
Andre Schurrle, Eden Hazard and Cesc Fabregas are extremely adept at playing in this role, having done so on many occasions in the past for their respective countries. Fabregas played as the false number 9 several times for his former club Barcelona as well. In this corresponding fixture last season, Mourinho opted to play Schurrle up front due to his lack of strikers, but Chelsea were unable to pick their way through the United defence.
Goals have come from a wide variety of sources for Chelsea this season and a lot of their focus is on the build-up. Hence, playing a false number 9 may be a good option. This will give the likes of Oscar and Willian more chances to go forward and score.
3) A Return For Costa
This will be the most ideal situation as far as Chelsea are concerned. Costa, the league’s joint top-scorer, hasn’t played in the last two games for the Blues, and even though Mourinho says a return is unlikely, one never knows with the excellent Chelsea physio team. In late-September, the last time Costa was said to be a doubt, he started and completed the game against Everton, scoring twice.
The Spaniard played twice for his country last week and therefore, once would assume that the injury is not too serious. He has had around 10 days to rest now and it will not be a surprise to see his name on the team-sheet on Sunday.