Striker Selection Key For Chelsea in Champions League Opener

By Greg Sulik
Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Chelsea FC open their UEFA Champions League campaign today at Stamford Bridge against Swiss side FC Basel. On paper, this match should be a fairly straightforward win for the Blues. They have far more talent, but they have struggled at times this season to put all the pieces together in the attack, and their finishing left much to be desired in Saturday’s loss to Everton.

The key to this game for Chelsea is Jose Mourinho’s striker selection. The newly acquired Samuel Eto’o made his debut against Everton, and he failed to put away several key chances. Fernando Torres was no more effective when he was introduced, and he has only found the back of the net once in this young season. Demba Ba remains an option, but is the least likely of the three to start.

No matter who starts, the simple fact remains that Chelsea needs far better play out their strikers. The guess here is that Torres will be given the first crack at today’s game, as he enjoyed quite a bit of Champions League success last season. With Eto’o looking rusty, it would seem the best option for Chelsea is to ease him into the action and back into goal scoring form.

Unfortunately, Chelsea set themselves up for this predicament with their inexplicable decision to loan 20 year old Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku. Lukaku was goal scoring machine when on loan at West Brom last season, but Mourinho never game him a legitimate chance this season before sending him to Everton. Considering that Chelsea had a loan deal in place to send the disappointing Ba to Arsenal, the decision to keep Ba over Lukaku is rather curious.

Chelsea may be best served by playing four of their attacking midfielders together, with André Schürrle in the de-facto striker role. With Eden Hazard on the left, Oscar central and Juan Mata on the right, Chelsea would have all of their best attacking options on the pitch together.

It is unlikely that Mourinho will choose such a lineup however, meaning that whoever is selected of Torres, Eto’o and Ba will have to improve. Chelsea should be fine for this game even if the strikers don’t play better, but as this tournament progresses (as well as the Premier League season) they will have to find someone to be a consistent goal scoring threat up top.

Today’s game is a good opportunity for one of the strikers to prove themselves, and such an emergence would be the final piece of the puzzle for Chelsea. Scoring goals is the name of the game, and it is time for one of these strikers to step up.

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