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Are Luiz And Cahill Good Enough To Contain United’s Attack?

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Chelsea have made a blistering start this season. What’s been more surprising than that has been the way that they have won back neutrals and pundits around the country who now love the brand of football that they are playing instead of being bored with the defensive-minded side that won an unforgettable European Cup and FA Cup double last season.

Roberto Di Matteo of course deserves full credit. After his success last season he would no doubt have been under huge pressure from Roman Abramovich to start the season well and you cannot deny that his team, headlined by their trio of inside forwards Eden Hazard, Juan Mata and Oscar are playing probably the best football in the country at the moment.

They have dropped only 2 points in the Premier League so far and look a side who are going to be hard to keep a clean sheet against given their exciting brand of football that unlike the Chelsea team of old doesn’t just rely on 1-2 players for goals and creativity. They are now a much harder team to set out against.

With all due respect to Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti, their great Chelsea sides relied heavily on Frank Lamaprd and Didier Drogba. How many times down the years did those two get Chelsea out of a pickle by scoring a goal out of nothing or have a 20-minute spell that would turn a draw into an empathic win.

The area of the pitch where most people would agree that Chelsea are not as strong is at the back. This weekend of course they will be without John Terry who serves another game out as a result of his suspension over the Anton Ferdinand affair. That will then see David Luiz and Gary Cahill team up in the heart of their defence.

Both defenders have made good starts to their Chelsea careers playing an important part in Chelsea’s stunning end to last season. That being said they are not as good as John Terry is in terms of being central defenders and can and have been easy for forwards to get at.

Luiz likes to have a walkabout and one Chelsea fan described him as being ‘someone who believes he’s the best player in the world.’ Now that’s no bad quality for a player to have, confidence is never a bad thing in football.

At times it could be argued Luiz does get too confident and has been caught with the ball too often in his own-half and allows forwards too much space frequently whilst sitting back, probably in the hope that he can catch them up because he’s such a good defender. By then of course he’s lost his man and is out of place, unable to catch up with the play.

Cahill is probably the better defender of the two but endured a nightmare debut in this fixture last season and was lucky to stay on the pitch at the end. He isn’t the quickest of defenders and has looked more nervous playing for Chelsea than he did for Bolton. Of course he should be more nervous, with all due respect to his previous side he is playing for a bigger club where performances come under question all the time where mistakes can lead to trophies and titles being lost.

It shall be interesting to see how Sir Alex Ferguson sets up United at the weekends. Chelsea will come out to attack, so will Wayne Rooney start in midfield or in a ‘half forward’ role behind Robin van Persie. Will he start two out and out wingers to get at Chelsea’s back-four who can put crosses into the area to put Luiz and Cahill under pressure from the start?

Intriguingly if one of the two is struggling at the back will Di Matteo be bold enough to put arguably his best defender – Branislav Ivanoic – in the centre of his defence from his right-back berth. Ivanovic has started the season extremely well and after a tough start to life in England has become fully accustomed with the pace and physicality of the Premier League.

He doesn’t dawdle with the ball and stays tight on his forward. He’s a good challenger of the ball and is a good reader of the game. What more could you want in a centre-half. He’s not someone United’s forwards would prefer marking them this weekend. Then again he does have a habit of putting his elbow about, so may well not last the full 90.

By Adam Dennehey @ADennehey87