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Jose Mourinho Must Keep the Faith with Chelsea's Champions League Victors

Published by Bleacher Report on Thu, 17 Sep 2015

STAMFORD BRIDGE, LONDONChelsea manager Jose Mourinho summed it up perfectly.Chelsea didn't beat Barcelona or another giant of the European game on Wednesday, but the manner of their 4-0 victory over Maccabi Tel-Aviv in the Champions League is all that mattered.Indeed, given the gulf in class on paper, a 4-0 scoreline was probably par, so we shouldn't be getting carried away. In a season that has started with so many negatives, however, Chelsea need to make the most of it.In the same vein, Mourinho will do well to remember what brought this victory about, notably his change of personnel.Time will tell whether or not this result was a mirage or a solid light at the end of the tunnel, yet when teams are struggling for inspirationand points, as Chelsea have beenit's moments such as these that they must cling to in order to pull themselves through.The Premier League champions were exciting to watch again on Wednesday. They played with a zip we haven't seen in a long while, and they went for the jugular.Mourinho had made six changes from the team that lost 3-1 to Everton at the weekend. The return of Oscar confirmed what Chelsea have missed in his absence through injury, but it was the displays of Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Baba Rahman that really caught the eye.Given the wise heads Chelsea already have in the central-midfield areas, it's fanciful to suggest Loftus-Cheek will get the nod ahead of Arsenal's to visit to west London on Saturday.The 19-year-old remains a bit too raw for such responsibility in a game that has plenty riding on it, although the signs are there for what he can give Mourinho over the course of 2015/16.It was a mature, imposing performance from the youngsterone that allowed Cesc Fabregas to play some of the best football we have seen from him in a long while in Chelsea colours.Loftus-Cheek's strengths are plenty, with that imposing, intimidating frame being the most visible. Look beyond his physique, though, and Chelsea have a real talent on their hands.Again, we shouldn't allow one isolated performance from Chelsea to get the better of us, but the sight of Loftus-Cheek dominating midfield was encouraging.He wasn't afraid to surge forward and put Tel-Aviv on the back foot; he wasn't scared of making big tackles to break up play.In fact, the latter point serves to show the maturity of the player. Loftus-Cheek was booked within the opening minute at Stamford Bridge, yet he lasted another 77 without coming close to tempting the referee to send him off.We've seen it too often when players more experiencedthan Chelsea's No. 36 carry the weight of an early booking and it damages their performance. So to see Loftus-Cheek come away with UEFA's man of the match award is all the more reason to celebrate a good night for him.He covered every yard that was required of him in defensive midfield, which allowed Fabregas to focus on what he is there for: penetrating the opposition back line.When Loftus-Cheek was eventually substituted on 78 minutes, the chants of "Ruben! Ruben" ringing around the stadium was confirmation of what we had seen from him."I'll hold that in my heart for a long time," Loftus-Cheek told Bleacher Report after.If Loftus-Cheek's display was a sign of where Chelsea can go in the near future with their midfield, Rahman's debut on Wednesday has been the awakening Mourinho has needed defensively.We'll say it again for clarity; with respect to Maccabi Tel-Aviv, they don't have the personnel of Barcelona, or Everton even, yet Rahman has already solved Mourinho's big problem at the back.For too long Chelsea have rode their luck by playing Cesar Azpilicueta out of position on the left, and now they've been found out.Conceding 12 goals already this season, it's been a disastrous start defensively. Further forward, Chelsea have lacked the presence to impose themselves on teams and haven't controlled games in the way we're used to seeing.That comes from Fabregas and Nemanja Matic's poor form in midfield. Equally, however, without being able to attack on both flanks, Chelsea's Achilles heel has been that they haven't asked enough questions of their opponents.It becomes a domino effect that leads to the opposition being able to push further forward, pressing Chelsea higher up the pitch and squeezing them for longer in matches.And in that pressure-cooker environment, goals are conceded and matches lost.Judging by what we saw on Wednesday, Rahman is a part of the solution to helping rectify that."That was the most pleasing thing early on in the game," Gary Cahill explained to Bleacher Report, discussing Chelsea's tempo against Tel-Aviv.Mourinho's men played at a high intensity in the beginning stages of the game, of which Rahman formed a vital part.Back in his natural position on the right, Azpilicueta was able to press forward more effectively than he does on the left, which Rahman did himself.That pushed Eden Hazard, Oscar and Willian further forward and in turn, put the visitors on the back foot from the off.That's what Chelsea haven't been doing this season. They haven't been dominant enough; they haven't imposed themselves and have looked weak as a result."I'm sure on their side, being on the back foot, they thought 'we're in for a game here' in the first five or 10 minutes," Cahill continued."That was the most pleasing thing. The way we started, we stamped our authority on the game straight away. We missed a penalty early on, but we kept going. We went again and again and again."Which brings us back to the point: It's not the fact that Chelsea beat Tel-Aviv, more the manner in which they did.We expected a victory, and for the first time this season, Mourinho and his players actually delivered on that.What we didn't expect was Chelsea to play with such effervescence brought on by some contributing factors, namely the level of opposition, but also the fact some players offered something their team-mates haven't this season.Chelsea's attempt to claw their way back into the Premier League title race starts this weekend against Arsenal. It's going to be a long, hard slog against Manchester City, and the Blues need three points.As Cahill said, Chelsea have already used up plenty of their lifelines, so they can't afford to drop any more points now, especially against direct rivals.Arsene Wenger's men will ask altogether different questions of the Blues than Tel-Aviv, but Mourinho already has some of the answers.Loftus-Cheek will have to wait for now, but the debate at the back shouldn't revolve around Rahman. Mourinho's question to himself is who does he drop: Branislav Ivanovic or Azpilicueta'Victory over Tel-Aviv has given the Chelsea boss the blueprint he has been looking for this season, and he shouldn't turn his back on it.Garry Hayes is Bleacher Report's lead Chelsea correspondent. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow him on Twitter @garryhayes
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