Chelsea line up against Maccabi Tel-Aviv tonight with an unfamiliar team, but they hope it doesn’t have a familiar ring.
Last season, the Blues were very rigidly set in their ways. The back four was settled, the midfield duo of Matic and Fabregas played most games behind a front four that rarely changed unless there was an injury to a main starter.
Tonight, Ruben Loftus-Cheek gets a rare start as he partners Cesc Fabregas in midfield, which means no room for Nemanja Matic. Diego Costa is left out of the starting XI in favour of Loic Remy.
But the most interesting changes have come at the back, the area of the team where Mourinho’s men have been the most shaky this season. John Terry finds himself on the bench, as does Branislav Ivanovic, whilst Gary Cahill and Kurt Zouma start at centre back and there’s a debut for Baba Rahman. This will be the first game since January that neither Terry nor Ivanvic start for Chelsea. On that occasion, they lost 4-2 to Bradford. Defeat tonight would surely be just as shocking.
With the defence looking shaky, and Ivanovic and Terry in particular coming in for criticism this season, maybe this is more than simply a rotation from Mourinho. But with a big game against Arsenal at the weekend, surely most of these players are simply being rested.
The injury to Thibaut Courtois means Asmir Begovic starts in his stead, meaning Chelsea’s entire spine of Courtois, Terry, Matic and Diego Costa will be missing from the Premier League champions. Maybe we could see a repeat of that Bradford game after all.