Chelsea’s best defender’s out for Saturday’s UEFA Champions League final, his inability to control random acts of aggression earning him straight red against Barcelona. The man who’s arguably their second-best defender will also be suspended, having judged it prudent to do some scuffing of the penalty spot ahead of a second half kick.
And who knows? Branislav Ivanovic may have been right on that one. Regardless, both he and captain John Terry will miss this weekend’s Champions League final, leaving manager Roberto di Matteo thin along the back.
That’s because the team’s other central defense options also nursing knocks. David Luiz, nominally part of Chelsea’s starting XI, has been out since Apr. 15 after suffering a hamstring injury against Tottenham. Gary Cahill suffered a similar injury in the second leg in Cataluyna. That means spots one-through-our on Chelsea’s center half depth chart have either big red lines or huge question marks.
Today, things started looking up for the Blues, with reports out of Cobham having both Luiz and Cahill resuming training, though di Matteo was measured in his optimism. The duo would “try to train” with their teammates on Tuesday, and it’s still uncertain whether either will be ready come Saturday.
There’s no telling what Roberto di Matteo will do if all four are unavailable. Presumably they can’t get Alex back from Paris Saint-Germain. We could see Michael Essien paired with one of José Bosingwa or Paulo Ferreira in central defense.
The selection problems are reminiscent of 2009, if only much worse. Barcelona had to drop Yaya Touré into central defense after the eventual champions lost Dani Alves (suspension), Eric Abidal (suspension) and Rafa Marquez (injury) leading up to the final.
Pep Guardiola had the luxury of having his absences spread across the back line. He also had an uber-versatile defender with world class quality: Carles Puyol. Unfortunately for Chelsea, their two best, healthy options right now are left backs (Ashley Cole, Ryan Bertrand).