IT could be a case of comparing headgear fashion prior to kick-off tomorrow at Stamford Bridge as Chelsea and Sunderland get ready to for the battle of the masks.
In the blue corner will be Petr Cech who has been wearing protection around his head following a horrific skull injury suffered against Reading more than four years ago while, in the red corner, Sunderland’s Simon Mignolet will be sporting his own model around his noggin after a broken nose and eye socket sustained in the two-all draw at home to Aston Villa in October.
Back then Mignolet went up to claim a high ball only to run into man mountain Emile Heskey and not surprisingly came off second best as the Belgian was helped off the pitch with plenty of claret streaming from his scrunched-up nose.
Keiren Westwood subsequently deputised but a virus allowed a recovered Mignolet to step back into the fold – mask and all – and will be displaying it alongside Cech, the man who set the trend in the first place.
Mignolet said: “He (Cech) will be wearing his protective helmet as well. It’s almost become his trademark. He wears his all the time.
“For me, I will wait for the doctors to advise me what to do but initially I was told to wear it until the end of February so we will see then, what to do next. Just in case, I will probably wear it two or three weeks longer, just to be safe.
“If I feel comfortable in it, I could wear it a little bit longer. The injury is fine, I don’t feel it anymore. I’m used to the mask. I only really feel it in the first ten minutes, that’s the only time I know it is there but when you get going and start playing, you don’t even realise you are wearing it. It doesn’t really affect me at all.
“But I do not want to wear it all my career or anything like that, definitely not. I want to get back to normal.”
Of the injury itself, Mignolet states it was all part of the job and he knew the risks beforehand as that is what he’s paid to do.
He added: “It was a nasty injury – a fractured eye socket and a badly broken nose. I still have some bruising around the eye but it is just one of the perils of the job.
“You do not really think about it, all you focus on is saving everything that comes your way whichever way you can. Sometimes, you can get injured but that is just part of the job. Putting your body on the line is what you are paid to do, that’s how it is.
“It was a collision with Heskey but I can’t remember it because I was unconscious after it happened. I have seen it since. A cross came in, I went to punch it, we collided and I blacked out. I spent two nights in hospital because I had the op the day after the game.
“After the op, when I woke up, the club doctor came in to see me and asked how I was. I said I was fine and would be able to play the next week! The club doctor laughed and said you won’t be able to do that because it is a serious injury, That was my first reaction but the club doctor told me it would be a long time.
“I asked if I could play with a mask. But I was told it was quite a severe injury and the doc said he had not seen as bad a head injury at this club since he started. After scans, I was told it was going to be 12 weeks but after seeing another consultant, I was told it could be quicker than that.”
Masked or not, the scene is set for Mignolet to pit his wits against one of the world’s top keepers in Petr Cech. However, outshining one of the game’s best is not his main concern with Sunderland getting a result overriding everything else.
Mignolet continued: “He (Cech) is a very good keeper but there are a lot of very good keepers in the Premier League right now but if you are playing for Chelsea week-in week-out, you are there at the very top.
“I have a lot of respect for him. But I certainly won’t be trying to prove anything or try to outshine him just because I am on the same pitch at Peter Cech. That is not my motivation.
“The only motivation I have is to try and get something out of the game. It is at Stamford Bridge and the only way we will do that is if everyone is on their game and plays their best.”