Five things we learned about Chelsea in Basel defeat
Swiss outfit Basel seem to be something of a bogey team for Chelsea, with Jose Mourinho’s men slumping to a 1-0 defeat on Tuesday night against a valiant host. The result means that Basel have beaten the Blues in both legs of the Champions League group stages and prevented the west Londoners from booking a spot in the knockout rounds last night.
Mohamed Salah got the decisive winner in the dying moments, with the Swiss side good value for their hard-fought win.
Here are five things that were evident in the match-up.
Schar and Salah should be on the Premier League radar
Basel put in an excellent team performance, but their main stars are undoubtedly defender Fabian Schar and goalscoring hero Salah.
The accomplished centre-half look confident and comfortable on the ball, while also sniffed out any attacking advances from the star-studded Blues offensive line.
Salah was a constant threat, terrorising the Chelsea backline with his movement and pace, and could have had more than his solitary goal.
Cech still more-than dependable
With Thibaut Courtois excelling during his third season on loan at Atletico Madrid, much of the talk in the media about Chelsea’s goalkeeping situation is focussed on just when the giant Belgian will replace Petr Cech.
While Courtois made a mistake for Zenit’s goal in Russia last night, Cech was pulling off top-drawer saves to keep Basel at bay.
The Czech Republic international is having another good season, and although Courtois is a bright prospect, abandoning the experienced stopper does not seem on the cards anytime soon.
Terry for England
While the entire Chelsea back four struggled to contain Basel’s enterprising and exciting forward play, John Terry looked the most adept in a tough environment.
The former England captain has consistently been the Blues’ best defender this season, and again stood up to be counted for his side.
With Gary Cahill his regular club partner but being outshone by his captain, Roy Hodgson needs to give serious consideration to bringing Terry back into the England fray ahead of next summer’s World Cup.
Why no Juan Mata?
With Chelsea’s attacking players failing to make an impact against a compact Basel backline, Mourinho’s decision to keep Juan Mata on the fringes of the team is baffling.
The Spaniard is understandably getting frustrated at his lack of time on the pitch this season, and the Blues are risking ostracising arguably their most gifted player.
With Willian and latterly Kevin De Bruyne not offering much in the final third, surely Mata is in line for a recall?
Torres a better option than Eto’o
Samuel Eto’o started the game but was replaced due to injury, with his replacement Fernando Torres looking much more dangerous and sprightly than the ageing African.
The Spaniard was in good form before picking up a knock of his own, and having him back available will be a real boost for the Stamford Bridge side.
There is no doubt that Torres should be Chelsea’s first-choice number nine, and he could make a real difference he continues recent strong form.