Preview: Chelsea v. Steaua Bucharest

Typical Mourinho, eh? For anyone who didn't catch the pre-match press conference from Rom...

Typical Mourinho, eh?

For anyone who didn't catch the pre-match press conference from Romania today, you missed some vintage Mourinho. Ultimately, he ended up storming out of the presser after being pushed about why Kevin De Bruyne failed to make the matchday squad, and didn't make the trip to Bucharest. Although I find his response a bit childish, I see two valid reasons for it. 

First is the reason he provided himself - he was tired of being questioned about the players not involved, as opposed to answering questions about what will influence the game; namely, tactics and the players actually included in the squad. He has a bit of a valid point too - and he says it better than I ever could:
"This is fantastic because no one asks me about Juan Mata. You have spoken about Mata for three weeks. Now you are asking about Kevin. You are impressed in the players who are not playing...With Kevin, I didn't like the match he played against Swindon...I didn't like the way he was training. But you only ask about the guys who were not selected. Thank you."
And that was that - Mourinho promptly stood up and walked out, leaving a somewhat dazed-looking Frank Lampard to address the media. But he does make a fair point - the press should be focusing on the team actually selected (and those likely to feature), rather than the players left out. However, the contradictory fact that he was willing to discuss Mata's exclusions so openly is something to ponder.

The second reason I see for this response is a purely vintage Mourinho maneuver - "Us against the world". By walking out of the presser when questioned on something regarding possible negativity surrounding the team, he feigned being "fed up" with it. This could serve to rally the lads. The way I see it, he may be trying a different tactic than what he did with Mata. I think he was publicly challenging Mata to elevate his game - the defensive side of his game - and Juan did just that, in a beautiful fashion, on Saturday. Mourinho knew Mata would rise to the occasion. With De Bruyne, he made a bit of a public challenge, but also sent the message to the players that if it goes too far, he has their back, and doesn't want discord in the dressing room to be instigated by the media. Furthermore, by storming out, he's drawing attention to himself. We've seen him do this throughout his career - Divert attention from something negative in the squad by playing the role of court jester.

I just hope it works.

In any case, Tuesday night is an immensely important match. Chelsea need to come away with all three points to avoid the possibility of...I don't even want to suggest it. Not saying they're heading down that road just yet, but the notion repeating last year's campaign is unthinkable, so we need to take a crucial three points from the Romanian side.

Which, inevitably, begs questions of squad selection. I expect to see Cahill back in defense, hopefully paired with Luiz. No disrespect, but a team like Steaua Bucharest is one against whom Luiz could push forward a bit more and get involved in some of the attacking buildup. Expect perennial stalwart Ashley Cole to start at left-back, and Mourinho-favorite Branislav Ivanovic on the right. This line would give us solidity at the back, but offers a lot of bite going forward and in possession, of which I anticipate we'll have plenty.

I expect to see Ramires paired with Mikel. I could see Lampard getting the nod, but my gut is telling me Mourinho will rest him, and with the injury to Van Ginkel, that leaves Mikel. Rami's energy and bursting runs will be crucial, and I believe Mikel will be the anchor alongside him in the double pivot.

Now the tricky part - what attacking trio will we field? It's already been made clear by Mourinho himself that, after his fantastic performance against Spurs, Mata will be starting. Where he'll be deployed is an entirely different matter. I can't imagine Oscar not starting, so it's a toss up who will be in the No. 10 role. They interchanged well after Mata's introduction on Saturday, but towards the end, Mata was spending more time as the No. 10. I hope Mou gives them some freedom to roam and interchange as they see fit. Who will slot in beside them will be a different story. We won't be seeing the MAZACAR midfield we're all pining for, as Eden Hazard has been left out of the squad due to injury. I thought Schurrle played well at White Hart Lane and he's my favorite for starting on the other wing. Willian has yet to impress me, but I expect to see him as a super sub later in the match.

Now, the ever-puzzling striker quandary. Torres would be my choice, without a doubt - he's the only striker who's looked properly on-form. After his beast-mode performance on Saturday (in which he ultimately ended up sent off), he earned my support for being the No. 1 choice. Besides that, he's looking at possibly facing a four match ban. Which is incredibly unfortunate, just as he was starting to hit his stride. This is why I believe Mourinho will select him Tuesday night - He's likely to spend the next few matches on the sideline, why not give him another 90 minutes to keep that confidence up (and hopefully improve on it by bagging a goal or two)?

Who does the ChelseaDaft Community think will be strolling out of the tunnel on Tuesday night? What do you think about Mourinho's press conference antics? Let me know with a comment in the section below.

*Also, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@blakehewitt) and SWOL for Chelsea-related news, commentary, and updates on postings to both ChelseaDaft and Soccer Without Limits (SWOL).*


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