Well, Chelsea’s Europa League bow against Sparta Prague was much ado about nothing.
I am not quite sure which was more unpalatable: the ‘football’ the two sides served up, or Craig Burley’s incessant whingeing for an hour and a half.
Aside from Oscar injecting a bit of class from the bench, Rafa Benitez’s side again went through the motions and did little to lift any of the pessimism around Stamford Bridge.
Anyhow, a win’s a win and Chelsea have now managed to string two of them together for the first time this year and have a very presentable opportunity to elongate that sequence when Brentford visit Stamford Bridge in the FA Cup on Sunday afternoon.
Uwe Rosler’s plucky League One outfit were more than equal to their illustrious London neighbours a fortnight ago, but they surely missed the boat when Fernando Torres’ late equaliser clinched a replay for the Blues.
The FA Cup holders were awful that day, although they were not assisted by being asked to play on a piece of land you’d normally associate with the last pastures of a Tesco-bound horse.
So on the big green baize at the Bridge, you’d expect Chelsea to progress to the fifth round without much fuss and certainly bwin’s 3Way football betting market price of 7/50 for the Premier League outfit to win shows the gulf in class.
With Victor Moses and John Obi Mikel back from Africa Cup of Nations duty, Benitez is now suddenly flush with options and the Bees’ visit should offer an opportunity to shuffle his pack.
There’s no predicting what the Spaniard will do but if I was him, I’d be telling the likes of Eden Hazard, Juan Mata and Frank Lampard to put their feet up to open the way for a few others to stake a claim.
The other bright-ish spot from Prague was the performance of Marko Marin. The German international has turned into something of a Walter Mitty fantasy figure since signing from Werder Bremen in the summer, but after opening his account for the club against Wigan last Saturday, the 23-year-old again put in a lively show as he looks to finally break into the side.
Marin has managed to develop a bit of a cult following among the Blues faithful through doing next to nothing. On the club’s pre-season tour of the United States he was the stand-out performer, ducking and diving in from the wings and generally looking the part.
The “German Messi” tag may be a bit far-fetched but certainly I can remember a young Marko tearing Tottenham a new orifice in the Champions League a few years back and this mythical brilliance has whetted the fans’ appetites.
Quite why he’s figured so little begs questions of both him and the way the management has failed to integrate him into the team but on the back of his goal against Wigan, another for the U21s against Blackburn on Tuesday and a decent run in Prague the other night, I’m keen to see Marin have another go against opposition he could take a shine to.
Generally Chelsea’s best performances of late have come with Moses on one wing. The Nigerian has offered balance to the side by giving natural pace and width down one flank and this has invariably opened up space for others to prosper elsewhere.
The ‘Mazacar’ trio is too narrow as all three venture infield to congest matters, so the sooner Benitez twigs on that a winger is needed, the better.
Moses will be first choice but Marin does have the ability to challenge the Nigerian for that right and with minutes on the meter, he could end up becoming a real asset between now and the end of the season.
He’ll be no use kicking his heels on the bench and with Mata and Hazard due a breather, I’d definitely give Marin another go against Brentford.
If he does, then some Marin-related punts are worth a wager.
A price of 5/2 is not bad at all to score at any time, and 11/1 is relatively huge for the first goal if he starts.
If he doesn’t, then he’s also 11/1 to wrap things up and personally, I might launch a quid or so on Marin being the first scorer in a 4-0 win at 50/1.
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