At the end of last season Chelsea bid farewell to long-serving left-back Ashley Cole, a legend in West London. The ex-England defender lost his starting spot to César Azpilicueta during his final term at Stamford Bridge and moved on to AS Roma of Italy.
José Mourinho scoured the transfer market in search of Cole's replacement, selecting Filipe Luís as the £16 million acquisition that would replace him. Despite this, Luís is yet to make his full Premier League debut, having served as a substitute in his first seven games as a member of Chelsea's Premier League squad, due to the exceptional form of Branislav Ivanović and César Azpilicueta.
Filipe Luís, 29, who was purchased from Atlético Madrid over the summer, is a Brazilian left-back and is often found bombing up and down the left flank. Luís was impressive in both La Liga and the Champions League last season, helping Atlético to win the league and reach the final of Europe's premier competition.
The Brazilian possesses strong passing abilities and kept a pass completion rate of over 80% last term, averaging one key pass per game. This season, Luís has linked up excellently with Eden Hazard during his limited number of opportunities. These factors add up to a strong claim in the competition for a starting berth.
On the other side of the defence, Branislav Ivanović, 30, has served Chelsea from 2008 to the present and is a converted centre-half who now plies his trade at right-back. The Serb suffered from a fruitless opening couple of seasons in London, but has cemented his place in Chelsea's first team squad, making 184 league appearances, scoring 17 times on the process. Ivanović was a fixture in last term's Chelsea team, contributing greatly and most notably striking the winner in a 1-0 victory away at the Etihad. Ivanović had started every game for Chelsea so far this season.
César Azpilicueta is a versatile Spanish full-back who can perform comfortably on either side of the defence. Predominantly a right-back, José Mourinho utilised the Spaniard at left-back both last season and in the opening games of this season, displaying confidence and consistent solidarity in the role.
However, César often slows down play during counter-attacks due to cutting invariably onto his stronger foot, which allows opposition defenders a moment of recovery. Azpilicueta versatility is the root of Mourinho's dilemma, putting pressure on both Luís and Ivanović in the tussle for a first team spot.
José Mourinho possesses an embarrassment of riches, with three top quality full-backs in his ranks and faces a serious decision deciding which two of his three full-backs make his starting eleven. With Ivanović and Azpilicueta starting Chelsea's opening seven league fixtures, Luís is fancied by many to obtain a starting position in the coming weeks, leaving Azpilicueta and Ivanović to fight for the right-sided berth.
However tough a decision it may be, I am entirely certain that José would prefer to be forced into a call rather than not be able to make it in the first place.
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