While most of the attention in the press is on England’s tricky match against Macedonia, one must not overlook next week’s Champions League matches which are going to be crucial for English teams such as Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United.

Crucial because it can mean the difference between financial success or the sack. And the team that has the most to lose and the biggest mountain to climb is Chelsea.

So far this season the Blues are looking more like last year’s Real Madrid than this year’s Man United. Sure, the west London side hasn’t had much time to gel, but Mourinho’s side only has one match to prepare before they take on the razor sharp Werder Bremen next week.

How Chelsea performs in this Saturday’s match (10am ET, live, Setanta) against Charlton will have a huge impact on Chelsea’s Champions League match next Tuesday (2:30pm ET, live, Setanta). What Mourinho needs more than anything is for Chelsea to start playing the fluid style of passing football that they aced last season. We saw glimpses of it in their opening season match against Man City, but it was nowhere to be seen in their loss to Middlesbrough and their unimpressive 2-0 victory against Blackburn.

While Chelsea will be bolstered this Saturday with the arrival of Ashley Cole to the left back position, Mourinho still faces the quandary of what to do with Frank Lampard and Michael Ballack. Both players cancel each other out similar to how Gerrard and Lampard played together in the World Cup. While Steve McClaren keeps the faith with Lampard against Macedonia, does Mourinho have the fortitude to make the right decision and drop Lamps against Charlton?

If you’re going to make a radical change as a manager to the lineup, Charlton is the opposition to do it against. To me, Iain Dowie’s side is the weakest in the Premiership right now and will be in serious trouble this season. While he means well, Dowie is out of his league and his players will figure that out pretty soon, which will spell disaster for the side.

Speaking of potential disasters, Chelsea is going to have a rocky time against Werder Bremen next week. The German side has a good chance of winning the Bundesliga this season and, with a striker such as Miroslav Klose, they’re the type of team that could nick one goal given a chance and hold on for a 1-0 win.

If so, Mourinho’s head — for the first time in his Chelsea career — could be on the chopping block by Christmas unless the Blues can turn around their season.

The pressure is on, but let’s see what champions are made of.


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