Having to play the whole of the second half with ten men after Branislav Ivanovic was sent off for a ‘strong’ challenge on Kolarov, it would have certainly been no surprise to the Chelsea fans if their team managed to grind out another victory, given their heroics in the latter stages of the Champions League last season.
However, yesterdays defeat to Manchester City brought them right back down to Earth, leaving them to question whether they are actually in any position to challenge for the title. In the highly charged affair at Villa Park, both teams showed that they were not treating this game as a friendly, fielding possibly their strongest and probable XI’s for their first Premier League fixtures next weekend, with Manchester City only missing Joe Hart in goal, and Chelsea not having Oscar and Marin available to them yesterday afternoon.

For all the dominance City had in the first half, engineering many scoring opportunities, Chelsea took an improbable lead through Fernando Torres after some nifty footwork from Ramires to create space for Torres to dink the ball over the rushing City goalkeeper. However, the turning point in the game came shortly after the goal, with Ivanovic getting sent of for a lunge on Kolarov, leaving fans and pundits bemused at the decision. This triggered Man City into passing wider, and attacking the spaces, making the most of the one man advantage they had been given, with three quickfire goals from Yaya Toure, Carlos Tevez and Nasri, whilst Ryan Bertrand capitalised on a mistake by Pantilimon late on in the game.

Being at the game yesterday, I would go as far as saying that even a 3-2 scoreline flattered Chelsea, as they had realistically only scored from the two genuine chances they created, whilst City missed a handful of chances in both halves of the game, before their quickfire treble at the start of the second half. Some would call it efficient football by the champions of Europe, but to put it simply, Chelsea did not get the ball in the right areas and were too wasteful to be effective enough in the City area of the pitch. With Torres, I could go on past judgements and say that he is now looking sharper than he has ever done in a Chelsea shirt, I will not do so, and let his prolonged run in the team determine whether he has that sharpness about him, and as long as he continues to find the back of the net, his performances will be overlooked. If there was a Chelsea player to be singled out for their under par performance yesterday afternoon, it would have to be Mikel, simply because for a player of simple duties on the pitch, he gave the ball away too much and was hustled off the ball too often by an energetic Manchester City team. This will leave Di Matteo with a headache over future selection, with Oscar likely to be available for their weekend fixture, and I would not be surprised if Ramires operated where Mikel did, with Oscar or Marin taking his place in the team.

Torres putting Chelsea in the lead in the first half
Out of the signings made by Chelsea over the summer, only Eden Hazard warranted a starting berth, with Oscar still on Olympic duty and Marin ruled out due to injury, and with now less than a week to go before their first Premier League fixture away to Wigan, Chelsea will have serious work to do in training to give Di Matteo an idea of how the team will line up on Sunday afternoon. Many fans were expecting a new look Chelsea with the revamp of their squad over the summer, and it is still possible, but with poor pre-season results and now the issue of not having another right back available for their next game, it will be fully understood amongst the Chelsea faithful if Di Matteo reverts back to basics in their first few fixtures to accumulate the points, with the team forming their chemistry in the process.
With 4-2-3-1 being the preferred formation by Di Matteo to accomodate their attacking talent, who do you believe should start against Wigan this weekend? How did Hazard perform in his English debut? Leave your comments below or share through my Twitter page.
Dharmesh Tank