FC Basel’s Swiss midfielder Fabian Frei (C) celebrates winning the UEFA Champions League Group E football match against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge
Chelsea started their Champions League campaign in the worst possible manner, succumbing to a 1-2 defeat at Stamford Bridge to Swiss side FC Basel. The Blues put up a lacklustre performance and looked off the mark for most of the 90 minutes.
Basel didn’t look extremely threatening either, but they did the one thing that Chelsea failed to do: create chances and take them.
While it’s still early days in terms of the Champions League, it wasn’t an ideal start and Mourinho’s men now have it all to do in the remaining five group matches.
Unlike the game against Everton where a coherent game-plan was visible throughout the game, Chelsea looked mostly listless against Basel. Chelsea were expected to have plenty of possession and they did just that.
However, they failed to make the most of their possession and struggled to create too many chances. The Lampard-Van Ginkel pairing in midfield was a horribly disjointed one and saw Chelsea exposed many times. Lampard played his usual role midfield, i.e., rush forward at every opportunity without putting in much of a defensive shift.
Van Ginkel had to do most of the defensive work and was caught out several times, eventually earning himself a booking. Eden Hazard was disappointing on the night, although Eto’o, Oscar and Willian put in decent performances. Defensively speaking, Chelsea weren’t much better either, with Ashley Cole in particular having an extremely poor night.
Basel came to the Bridge with a simple game-plan: park the bus and then hit Chelsea on the counter whenever the opportunity arose. They also chose to attack down their right wing through Mohamed Salah, who left Cole for dead on quite a few occasions. They were eventually rewarded in the second half as Salah and Streller got on the scoresheet to pull off the victory.
The biggest problems lay in Chelsea’s offensive play. They had their fair share of possession yet were unable to create chances. There were plenty of passes exchanged yet the final ball remained elusive.
Willian looked decent on the right wing and Oscar, despite a few heavy touches and wayward passing, looked good. Hazard had a night to forget. He looked poor on the ball and his final pass was lacking for most of the match.
In defence, Luiz had a mixed night and Cahill was barely involved in the play. Ivanovic didn’t get bypassed on too many occasions but Ashley Cole was poor. The veteran defender was either caught out of position or convincingly beaten by Mohamed Salah, who put in a brilliant performance.
Simply put, Mourinho has a lot of work to do at the moment.
It’s still too early to let panic set in for the Blues. But the plain facts cannot be ignored; the team have lost two games on the trot and have been far from convincing in recent matches. Strangely, Mourinho is still trying to figure out his strongest XI and in the process is leaving out some of his better players from the starting line-up. Chelsea fans will no doubt be hoping that there is some method to this madness.