Chelsea let a two goal lead slip in their first Champions League group game against Juventus. As they prepare to play FC Nordsjaelland away from home, what are we likely to see from the European champions?
Sitting on a 2-0 lead against Juventus, Chelsea would have been thinking about the dream start to their European title defence. However, a goal just before half-time and a second-half equaliser in that match brought Roberto Di Matteo’s men back down to earth. Next up are FC Nordsjaelland, a team Chelsea should destroy on paper.
Chelsea played with quite a narrow midfield in the first game with Fernando Torres as the main striker. Oscar, Hazard, Ramires and Lampard all swapped positions to provide attacking support. The effect this had is that it made it very difficult for Juventus to get their key players on the ball and for large parts of the game it was a tactic that worked well.
Chelsea are likely to want to dominate possession when they go to FC Nordsjaelland for their second group game. They will probably keep the same midfield system because they had 64% of the ball against Juventus and they will not want the home side to have any influence on the match. This does place a lot of pressure on Ivanovic and Cole to get forward from the defence to provide a little width down the sides.
Nordsjaelland are likely to defend deep which means Chelsea are not going to have much space in and around the opposition penalty area. Therefore, one of the midfield players, most likely Oscar, will effectively have to play as a second striker in the hole behind Torres. The reason for this is that when a side defends deep it can often be difficult for a busy midfield to slide the ball through for the striker.
Oscar can sit just in front of the defence to utilise any space which will allow him to turn and fire shots on goal, similar to his second goal in the match against Juventus. This will narrow the Nordsjaelland defence even further meaning that Cole and Ivanovic will be in the best positions to play the ball in behind the home defence.
Defensively Chelsea need to stay very disciplined. They were guilty of being caught in two minds for both goals against Juventus with a lack of closing down for the first goal and John Terry trying to needlessly play offside for the second goal. The centre backs need to stay tight when Chelsea don’t have the ball and they will need to adapt when they do have the ball.
The reason they need to adapt is because of the full backs going forward to provide the extra width. Mikel has a key role to play in front of the back four because he will have to cover for Terry’s lack of pace if Nordsjaelland counter attack in the spaces left by the full backs and the attacking midfield players. This is a role Mikel will need to play all night long because of the way Nordsjaelland are bound to defend.
At times Chelsea may even be playing three at the back because Cole has a tendency to stay forward in most attacks when Chelsea are dominating the game. This should not be a problem because of the cover the rest of the team can provide.
Expect Chelsea to have the majority of possession and the majority of the game. If they can pick pocket a tight and deep home defence then they shouldn’t find it too difficult to pick up a win. The home side lost their opening match against Shakhtar so they will be determined to dig in for at least a point.