QUALIFICATION WITHIN TOUCHING DISTANCE
Following a successful away day against Wigan on Sunday its time again for Chelsea to get on their travels again with a flight to Germany, and a game against Schalke 04 which could decide our path to the knock-out stages of the Champions League. After our 2-0 win at Stamford Bridge, clinched by goals from Florent Malouda and Didier Drogba, another victory would more than likely see us through to the upper stages, and with Avram Grant’s boys firing on all cylinders recently, it could be a happy European night for the Blues.
Chelsea will again be without John Terry, Ashley Cole and Paulo Ferreira while it goes without saying that Michael Ballack is still out. The mysterious situation surrounding Joe Cole-who was left out of the squad for the Wigan game despite being fully fit-could be resolved with an appearance at Schalke, but with Shaun Wright-Phillips putting in a sparkling performance at the weekend and Malouda a favourite of Grant’s, he could face a battle to make it into the line-up. With Andriy Shevchenko recently getting amongst the goals, the competitions third top scorer would also be disappointed if he misses out on at least some minutes on the pitch.
Schalke have some problems of their own, as on Friday night they lost to the Bundesliga’s bottom side Cottbus. A 0-1 defeat was also marred by a thigh injury to striker Kevin Kuranyi, who will miss the Chelsea game along with fellow striker Halil Altintop and defender Christian Pander. Schalke have now gone three league games without a win and sit bottom of Group B in the Champions League.
After our terrific away win at the Mestalla against Valencia we should be confident of getting a result at the Veltins-Arena. With Arsenal and Manchester United gaining the plaudits and also within touching distance of the knock-out stages its time to remind everyone that we are still here too, on fire with a nine game unbeaten run in all competitions.
Everyone loves a special European night and for us to qualify with two games remaining would be a huge boost, especially after that 1-1 draw with Rosenborg brought us ridicule and got us off to a bad start. With Liverpool in action too it would be the perfect night if we went through and they struggled again. Let’s show our European credentials and enjoy Rafa blundering again.
Prediction: A confident, flowing performance hopefully. A 2-0 win with the second coming fairly late on to see off a spirited Schalke comeback. It’s the ideal opportunity for Sheva to show he is on the way back as the African Cup of Nations approaches to take Drogba from us, and a goal or two would be the best answer to his many critics.