Schalke v Chelsea: What We Learned From This Clash


Chelsea demolished Schalke in the Champions League on Tuesday, winning 5-0 in Germany. The Blues were incredibly incisive on the attack, and solid on the defensive end as well. They have been dominant in the Premier League all season, but now they have gotten even better.

All the Pieces are Coming Together for Chelsea

Earlier in the season, Jose Mourinho hadn’t found the perfect starting XI yet, and especially against Leicester, Burnley and Everton, he was experimenting to see what format worked best for the team. Whether Willian or Andre Schurrle, Filipe Luis or Branislav Ivanovic should start, must have given him a selection headache.

Soon, Mourinho found the lineup he liked the best, with Ivanovic and Willian starting on the right. But the team still wasn’t completely on the same page, as injuries to Diego Costa and a few others set the development of the team back. Even though the Blues remained undefeated and unstoppable, they weren’t at their highest point.

Since returning from the international break, Chelsea have shown that they are all together now. The win over West Brom last Saturday may have seemed overblown, with the Blues winning by just two goals to nil, but the dominance was apparent throughout, although they took their foot off the gas in the second half.

This win… nay — dismemberment of Schalke brought to light even more, the brilliance of this team. The win was complete: Schalke really only had one close chance, and that was when Gary Cahill deflected a shot from outside the box, and the ball flew onto the crossbar. The attack was quick and deadly, Nemanja Matic once again dominated midfield.

Chelsea have almost devolved into two different squads. The back five, consisting of Cesar Azpilicueta, Cahill, John Terry, Branislav Ivanovic and Thibaut Courtois often stay back (well except for Ivanovic), and have become an almost-impenetrable wall.

The front four, consisting of Eden Hazard, Oscar, Willian and Diego Costa attack as a squad, roaming across the field and changing positions with ease. They pass well between each other, reading the target’s mind, and placing the ball just where it needs to be.

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The midfield pivot of Matic and Cesc Fabregas is what connects the two squads, and makes the team tick. Matic dominates the midfield, winning balls and halting the opposition’s attacks in their tracks. Fabregas collects balls off turnovers and organizes counters, distributing the ball short to one of the three attacking midfielders, or long to Costa. This pivot has been on the same page all season, and as the rest of the team got more comfortable, the pivot got better.

“Amazing. 90 minutes of top football. This game was fundamental, I picked the best team to play vs Schalke and win.” – Jose Mourinho

Chelsea are also dominating entire games now. Earlier in the season, they buried teams with 10 to 20-minute bursts of insanity. Then they would sit back, and be content to defend. Now however, the team is dominating the whole game, from kickoff to the final whistle. This allows the team to rest, even as they assure the win.

Mourinho Plays the Cards Right

Mourinho started a surprisingly strong team. Everyone knew that this was a big game, but with an important run of Premier League games coming, and qualification to the next round virtually guaranteed, the consensus was that Mourinho would take the opportunity to rest his stars. But he didn’t, starting Chelsea’s best XI.

It was a brilliant decision. The early lead that Chelsea picked up, allowed players like Oscar and Diego Costa to come off and rest, but it also allowed the Blues to ensure winning the group before the last match. And with Sunderland coming up on the weekend, the decision is all the better, because that also offers a good opportunity to rest players.

Before the final Champions League game against Sporting in two weeks, Chelsea go to Sunderland, host Spurs and then they return to the north east to play Newcastle. This is not an easy run, it will be very challenging. This is where Chelsea could pull away from Southampton, who have an even tougher run (City, Arsenal and United in the same span).

So assuring qualification now means that Chelsea don’t have an important game looming in the back of the mind. It allows Mourinho to focus on dominating these two weeks, give his players rest, then give some young players meaningful Champions League minutes.

The decision to start the stars was risky, and could have been disastrous, especially when Hazard pulled up in pain around the hour mark. But he was fine, and the team left Germany with a historic victory and great confidence.

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Schalke Need Julian Draxler — Badly

Roberto Di Matteo’s chance to beat the club which he claimed European glory with, turned very sour. His team looked poor on offense, always getting attacks together, but never getting good shots. Why? Because there was no Julian Draxler.

Draxler is one of Europe’s hottest young talents, many top clubs are after his signature, he would have made a big difference had he been able to suit up for the match.

His thigh injury will keep him out until 2015, and Di Matteo will be playing with one hand behind his back for the rest of the year.

Schalke’s poor offense showed just how much of an impact Draxler has. It should also raise interest in him even more.

Julian Draxler’s injury hurt Schalke’s offense badly, leaving them without their best player (