BACK TO THE FOOTBALL THAT MATTERS
Dismal. Lacklustre. Bitterly Disappointing. The Three Lions looked more like eleven clowns and made mugs of all of us who believed in them. The feeling of emptiness is as huge as the compensation package Steve McLaren will pick up as soon as he dodges the baying public and strolls his merry way to the FA to pick up the cheque.
How do we recover from this? What could possibly make things better? What could put the smiles back on those Chelsea and England fans who are still in utter shock and disbelief?
Step forward Derby County. In 13 games in the Premier League this season they have recorded just the one win, with five goals scored in total, and a mighty 31 conceded. And we’ve got them on Saturday. Thank you gods of football!
The perfect remedy for a bad week could be on the cards as we visit the League’s whipping boys. Our last league game resulted in a last-gasp Tim Cahill goal as Everton snatched a 1-1 draw, and now two weeks later we are looking to get back to winning ways. We may still have to do so without Petr Cech and John Terry, who are still recovering from injuries but the pair could find themselves in contention come Saturday evening if they win their respective fitness battles.
The Portuguese pair Ricardo Carvalho and Paulo Ferreira are definitely out while there may be some casualties from the international break either through injury, or perhaps jetlag in the case of our cross-continent travellers Alex, Claudio Pizarro, Michael Essien, Salomon Kalou, and Didier Drogba.
Derby meanwhile have a glimmer of hope with a near fully-fit squad ready for our trip to Pride Park. Centre-backs Claude Davis and Dean Leacock are back in training to try to plug the leaky defence which has conceded ten goals in their last five games. Claude Davis and Andy Todd are out through injury however.
All eyes-as well as hopes and expectations of the desperate Derby fans will be on wonderkid Giles Barnes, recently working his way back to fitness following an injury picked up at the end of last season. Barnes is a supremely talented midfielder and he may well be the one to worry our defence.
If the game on Saturday is anything like the last time these two sides met at Pride Park then Derby will most likely be euphoric to say the least. Back in October 2001, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink cancelled out an early Fabrizio Ravanelli strike to snatch a draw for Chelsea following a below-par first-half performance from the Blues.
But so far this season, Derby have lost 6-0 to Liverpool, shipped five against both Arsenal and West Ham without reply, and even lost 4-0 to Tottenham! We have to expect more of the same and with Rosenborg away on Wednesday night we have to get back into our stride again and pick up the wins, starting with Billy Davies’ side. We need to be ruthless, relentless and robust. We need to win and send a message out to the rest of the Premier League challengers, and a thrashing would be ideal. Let’s have some good news again after a week to forget.
Prediction: It has to be a big win! Knowing Chelsea though, anything could happen but surely not this time. A big win and a clean sheet should be the order of the day, and I’m going for a 3-0 win at least.