Chelsea may have extended their unbeaten run to 14 Premier League games this season courtesy of the 3-0 victory over Tottenham, but they face the prospect of heading into their next match against Newcastle on Saturday without arguably their most influential player.
No, it’s not Diego Costa, with the striker set to return to action at St James’ Park after serving a one-match suspension for picking up five bookings this season. Nor is it Cesc Fabregas or Eden Hazard, with the pair forming a strong understanding in their short time together to trigger Chelsea’s impressive start to the season.
It is in fact the rather unheralded Nemanja Matic, who received a yellow card in the victory at Stamford Bridge after scything down Harry Kane when he found himself on the wrong side of the Spurs forward.
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It means that Matic will miss the match against the Magpies having picked up a fifth yellow of the season, and as a result will miss his first minute of Premier League action since the season began back in August.
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So far this season, Matic has completed 840 passes, which is bettered only by Chelsea team-mate Cesc Fabregas and Manchester City’s Yaya Toure – who coincidentally are locked on 1,034 apiece according to Squawka – and he is rated as the third best passer of the ball in the league when compared to players who have made at least 10 appearances this season.
Not only will Chelsea miss his control with the ball at his feet, they’ll lose his presence in midfield. Matic has made the defensive role in midfield his own, and given that Chelsea have rattled through holding players in recent years such as John Obi Mikel, Oriol Romeu Raul Meireles and even David Luiz.
Mikel has never really convinced that he is on the world class level that Jose Mourinho demands, although he is certainly the pick of the bunch and has put in some reliable, if impressive performances over the years. Romeu has been shipped out on loan repeatedly and looks destined to flop at Stamford Bridge, while Meireles showed glimpse of brilliance but proved rather inconsistent.
And as for David Luiz? Well, the fact that he was put in central midfield should tell you enough about his defending.
In Matic, Chelsea have a real talent of a player, not that they need telling having signed him when he was a 21-year-old by former manager Carlo Ancelotti, although he left the club to join Benfica before returning earlier this year.Reuse content