Can Chelsea revive fortunes after custodian Courtois is ruled out?
After such a dominant Premier League title-winning campaign, Chelsea were expected to maintain their superiority over domestic rivals this term, but a hurtful injury to stalwart stopper Thibaut Courtois now threatens to worsen their poor start.
Last season, Jose Mourinho implemented the perfect blend of swift, menacing attackers and powerful midfielders to dictate proceedings in front of a solid defence, which was sat in front of sublime Belgium international Courtois.
With Mourinho confirming his number one goal guard is now set to miss a huge portion of the campaign, can the Blues battle past their damaging injury concerns and stuttering form to retain the title? Coral’s 5/1 odds suggests they can.
Courtois was one of the pivotal stars of Mourinho’s title-triumphing squad last season, with his acrobatic displays between the Stamford Bridge sticks helping his side clinch England’s top prize once again, after returning from a loan spell with Atletico Madrid.
The 23-year-old Belgian injured his medial ligaments during a training session recently and is now expected to be out for several months, with his boss confirming the shot-stopper needs surgery.
“Courtois was injured in a training session with the goalkeepers and I cannot tell you much, but I can tell you that he needs surgery in his right knee,” said Mourinho, whose side are 9/1 to win the Champions League.
“As a consequence of that he will be out for quite a long time. I cannot be at this moment more specific about the injury or the time he will be out.”
When asked if he could give a rough estimation of how long the Belgium international would be sidelined, Mourinho declared: “No, I don’t want to go in that direction. I just know that he will be out for some time.
“I will wait for [Chelsea medical director] Doctor Biosca to be more specific after surgery and I think today [Friday] we will be ready to give some more information. It’s a big blow but you will not see me next week speaking again about Thibaut. If he is injured, he is injured.
“It is not easy to have the best goalkeeper in the world injured but it’s easy to have one of the best goalkeepers in the world to play. We have [Asmir] Begovic to play and he is very, very good. I am very sad for Thibaut. I am very sad for the team obviously but we have a top goalkeeper and Begovic will be in goal.”
Chelsea finished eight points ahead of Manchester City last season, losing just three times all campaign, but this term the Blues have already tasted defeat twice after a troublesome start, which has been worsened by Courtois’ set-back.
Summer signing Asmir Begovic will now have to deputise in place of the Belgian for quite some time, a potent replacement stopper to have after his switch from Stoke City, but the 28-year-old has been prone to some errors so far in new surroundings.
Despite becoming one of the most impressive goalkeepers in the top-flight during his time with the Potters, Begovic has looked out-of-sorts at times in blue, though his true ability should now shine through with the knowledge he is number one for the foreseeable future.
Mourinho undoubtedly knows how to overturn such a poor start to the Blues’ title defence, but coming into the next set of fixtures after what turned out to be a costly break could see Chelsea either return to their best or be derailed completely.