The appointment of Rafa Benitez as the new Chelsea manager means the Blues are likely to undergo a minor makeover in the coming days, with the Spaniard looking to put his own stamp on the disorganised London side. Benitez has some big decisions to make, with several players under performing in key positions, so just how will he get the best out of Chelsea? talkSPORT look at how the club could line up under the former Liverpool and Valencia gaffer...
Though he has used various formations throughout his time as coach, Benitez favours an organised 4-2-3-1 above others. Considering the personnel he has available at Stamford Bridge, that's likely to be the setup he uses at Chelsea, too. In the system, the Spaniard likes his two deep lying midfielders to be mobile and aggressive, but also decent passers of the ball, while he has little time for buccaneering central defenders, instead preferring them to remain rigid in their positioning. Therefore, the front four are vital in creating goal scoring opportunities, with the key position being the number 10 playing behind the striker, most notably occupied by Pablo Aimar under Benitez at Valencia and at times by Steven Gerrard at Liverpool.
Ashley Cole will likely remain unchallenged at left-back for Chelsea, providing the defensive solidity Benitez desires on the left side. In the centre, he could opt to drop David Luiz and instead pair Gary Cahill with Branislav Ivanovic in John Terry's absence. Ivanovic isn't the quickest defender in the world, but has more discipline in holding his position than Luiz, while Cahill is a decent tackler and quicker than the Serb. Any attacking instinct from the back four is likely to come from Cesar Azpilicueta, who could be used in a similar manner to Glen Johnson at Liverpool, where the full-back was tasked with adding width in the latter days of the Benitez era.
The midfield two in front of the defence is of particular importance to Benitez, and he may make the bold decision to drop John Obi Mikel in favour of Oriol Romeu. Romeu lacks Mikel's experience, but has a better range of passing and is arguably a better decision maker, while Ramires has proven to be solid in a deeper midfield position, and has bounds of energy. In recent months, Romeu has been touted as a replacement for David Albelda at Valencia, and the two have many similar attributes, so it's easy to see why Benitez may ask the youngster to do a similar job as Albelda did so successfully under him at Valencia. If given time to develop an understanding, Ramires and Romeu could turn into a balanced, mobile and composed midfield pairing.
In front of the duo, Benitez will likely opt for an attacking midfield three, and in this area, while the personnel may not vary dramatically from Roberto Di Matteo's side, the players will have slightly different jobs. Juan Mata, a harder worker off the ball than Eden Hazard, would be the logical choice to field on the right in order to assist the attack minded Azpilicueta. Hazard, meanwhile, would retain his position on the left, but if Benitez is true to form, he'll ask the Belgian to work much harder off the ball than he has so far at Chelsea. With Torres unlikely to turn into a player reborn overnight, regardless of the arrival of his old coach, both Hazard and Mata will be required to get shots away on goal as frequently as possible. Oscar is the obvious option to play behind the striker, due to his all around ability in creating chances for others as well as scoring goals. An unexpected attribute the Brazilian has shown during his time at Chelsea has been his work rate off the ball, and that's likely to endear him to Benitez.
Inevitably, the biggest challenge for Benitez will be getting Fernando Torres to recover some of the form that made him such a feared striker in the first place. The arrival of the Spanish coach should give Torres at least a temporary boost in confidence, but Chesea won't be able to rely on that to carry him through the rest of the season. Taking the pressure off Torres will be of the utmost importance for Rafa, and in order to do so, Mata, Hazard and Oscar will all be expected to make frequent contributions in the goal scoring department. Benitez showed during the first of his two La Liga wins in the 2001/02 season with Valencia that he doesn't need a prolific striker in order to have success, with the goals in those days shared amongst his front four rather than coming directly from the striker, Mista. The Chelsea coach will be looking for collective responsibility rather than a miracle cure for Torres when it comes to finding the net.
Chelsea fans, what do you think of this line-up, and how do you feel about Rafa Benitez as your new coach? Leave a comment below...