Chelsea Club Focus – Can Romeu be the defensive difference?

As Chelsea eased to a comfortable 3-0 victory over Wolves at Stamford Bridge yesterday, the pressure for the meantime seemed to ease off the man in the dugout, Andre Villas-Boas. However, with four difficult upcoming fixtures, confidence and composure needs to be high, and yesterday Stamford Bridge saw plenty of those two components from youngster Oriol Romeu, making his first league start since arriving from European Champions Barcelona in the summer.

Romeu was strong in the tackle and comfortable in possession from the holding midfield role. Spraying the ball about, he performed excellently and despite being just 20, he staked a very strong claim to fight John Obi Mikel for a first team place in the upcoming fixtures against Liverpool, Newcastle, Valencia and Manchester City.

Whether the two will continue to battle for a first team place when Michael Essien recovers from his injury (his projected return is for February), remains to be seen. Interestingly, Barcelona ensured that they had a €10million buy-back clause after the first season, so should Romeu continually be picked and continually perform so well, Chelsea may have a battle on their hands to keep the Spaniard.

Whilst the three goals, including a seventh for young in-form prospect Danny Sturridge, will certainly boost confidence in the attacking players, the clean sheet should be a huge morale boost to the back four. Luiz was partnered with Terry again and whilst Cech was forced into a couple of saves in the second period, the two were relatively mistake-free throughout.

This was only Chelsea’s third league clean sheet of the season, which after thirteen games is unusual, with the Blues often viewed as a solid defensive outfit that concede few goals. After the last two home games seeing the West London outfit leaking seven goals, the supporters will be delighted to have seen the defence perform so well. This may be a sign of Romeu’s quality. Protecting the rearguard was his role, and he performed very well to help out his team-mates, as they secured an easy three points.

However, with Romeu still inexperienced particularly in English football, Chelsea’s under pressure manager Villas-Boas may be tempted to drop him in the upcoming fixtures against more testing opposition. The next game is against Liverpool in the League Cup, and with AVB thus far using his fringe and youth players in these games, Romeu may be set to start once again for Chelsea on Tuesday night, and be given another opportunity to show his ability.

It remains to be seen just how Villas-Boas will approach the League Cup Quarter Final with Liverpool. On one hand, The Blues are just three victories away from a trophy, and the Portuguese boss may be looking to seek revenge for Liverpool’s 2-1 victory at Stamford Bridge just over a week ago. However, looking at Chelsea’s congested fixture list and the quality of the teams they are about to face coupled with the importance of them, as Chelsea look to improve their league form and secure a spot in Round Two of the Champions League, he may play it safe with a second string side, rather than risk any key players for the key fixtures that await Chelsea in the forthcoming weeks.

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