Animal magic and comic defending



Marcos Alonso. Picture: Action Images

By Tim Harrison

Animal magic helped the Blues defeat the Tigers, and animal magic is being summoned again for the visit of the Foxes.

Chelsea are determined to lose their music hall reputation for comic defending as they welcome back former favourite Claudio Ranieri and his title-winning Leicester City team this weekend.

If the Blues can limit Jamie Vardy’s scoring chances to long-range, speculative efforts, then they have a realistic prospect of gaining three points at home.

Tony Conte wants the team to build on the display at the KCOM stadium before the international distractions; he wants the team to stick to three at the back (Cahill-Luiz-Azpilicueta, or – if fit – John Terry plus two) and use the extra energy of Victor Moses and Marcos Alonso to strike down the wings at every opportunity.

The formation change does, however, place a huge question mark over the future of Branislav Ivanovic. While nobody can question his commitment and passion, there are voices being raised about whether he is the right man for a three-player defensive line.

Alonso did so well against Hull that it would be wrong to change things round.

Yet the 32-year-old Serb has been a fixture at the Bridge since 2008, and wants to stay for another two or even three seasons. He and his wife and four kids are so settled in London that the prospect of a long-distance move has little appeal.

But Conte has other defenders in his sights, and has taken tentative soundings about a significant switch in the January transfer window.

Whatever happens in the coming months, the next two games promise to be exciting and rather emotional, not least because the clock is ticking to the return of yet another former hero.

Jose Mourinho will arrive as the title contenders begin to bunch up at the top, and the gaps start appearing between middle and bottom. A special occasion indeed.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not necessarily those of the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham.

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