Holland: Reasons to believe

Assistant first team coach Steve Holland has been speaking about squad strength and balance in the build-up to playing Bolton, and reports confidence in the camp that a busy fixture list can be negotiated and a sustained challenge maintained.

Jose Mourinho handed pre-match media conference duties to Holland ahead of our first domestic cup tie of the season, and with the game coming in a run of seven matches in 22 days, the coach confirmed there will be changes to the team selection.

‘We haven’t finalised the squad for tomorrow yet,’ Holland said. ‘We have looked at the players following the game against Manchester City and it is an opportunity to rotate, we will do that for sure, but in terms of who is playing and who isn’t, that is unclear.  

‘For the first weeks of the season we have had one game a week and the international break. Now the two games-a-week cycle kicks in and it is important you have a pool of players who are ready to handle that schedule.

‘Last week was the first European matches and there were four English clubs in the Champions League and two in the Europa League, and only one managed to be unbeaten in the games before and after the European game and in the European game, so it is that time of the season when it is demanding and we are very fortunate to have great depth in quality.

‘We have a small group of players who I am sure have been frustrated not to have played more and will possibly have the opportunity to show what they can do tomorrow.’

Ramires is the only one unavailable for selection for the Capital One Cup third-round tie at Stamford Bridge. The Brazilian has not recovered from the injury which brought an early end to his involvement in Sunday’s game at Manchester City.

‘Ramires had a problem in his abductor muscle which resulted in him being substituted in the second half,’ Holland reported.

‘It is a minor injury but it will keep him out of the game against Bolton and we will review him in the days following that.’

If Diego Costa is one of the players rested then centre-forward duties are liable to fall to either Didier Drogba or Loic Remy.

‘You always want your strikers to be scoring, and Loic appeared briefly against Swansea and got off and running very quickly which was great for him, and we have three strikers we are very happy with and we are confident whoever we select will be very dangerous.  

‘Didier hasn’t had many match minutes and he will score goals, there is no doubt. He came very close to scoring against Schalke, it was a matter of inches, and the next time that one will go in. That will be a special moment and is one the supporters will be looking forward to.

‘His role has been a very important one but often a cameo role in matches which he was very prepared for when he joined the club in the summer; a role to make an impact when legs are tired and use his vast experience at vital moments in big matches.’

 


Looking at opponents Bolton who are currently 21st in the Championship table, Holland highlighted that some their squad have experience in the Premier League with the Trotters before they dropped out, and some have been at clubs like Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool.

‘I had a lot experience before I came to Chelsea of the Championship and it is a tough league,’ he added.

‘In this country more than in any other country, you underestimate teams in the lower leagues at your peril.

‘The Capital One Cup is important. I would be lying if I said it is more important than the Champions League and Premier League but if you look at the winners of this competition in recent years they are more often than not the clubs you expect to be challenging for trophies, with the odd exception. Swansea and Birmingham bucked that trend but more often than not it is the bigger clubs which reflects how it has been viewed. It will be a difficult competition to win.’

Looking at the months ahead in general, Holland said that whereas last season Chelsea hoped, this season we believe, and he responded to a question about the perceived tactical approach to Sunday’s 1-1 draw.

‘We have scored 16 goals in five league matches this season, Manchester City have score eight in five. Jose has always been very clever tactically against the bigger clubs and last year proved that, I’m sure he will continue down that line. We will just continue with our work and try to win as many matches as possible.  

‘We feel we have depth and balance in all areas of the squad. Man City have been more or less the team to beat in recent years and a very powerful team. I remember the season before Jose came, we played Man City five times including two games in the States at the end of the season and we didn’t win one game. In the last two seasons, in the last three league games we managed to win two and were five minutes away from winning on Sunday, so physically, mentally and tactically the team has progressed and does feel ready to put in a real challenge, but we also know there are other clubs who feel the same.’