SNOW JOKE IN NORWAY
Last time we met Rosenberg it marked the beginning of the end for our special one. A 1-1 draw was deemed not good enough, and the straw which broke the camel’s back unfolded in front of all of us that night at Stamford Bridge.
Mourinho took flight, but since then, Avram Grant has propelled Chelsea to two wins and a draw, meaning that another three points will see the Blues qualify for the knock-out stages of Europe’s premier competition. But Rosenberg have shocked the footballing world, most specifically Valencia, in recent weeks. Two 2-0 wins over the Spanish side see Rosenberg sat in second place in Group B, and they too will be going all out to ensure qualification. Throw in the fact that the game will be played in sub-zero temperatures in Norway’s harsh winter, and we have a thrilling prospect up ahead.
Chelsea must enter the arctic Lerkendal without some key players. Petr Cech and Paulo Ferreira are still a few days away from full fitness while Ricardo Carvalho is out until mid-December at least. Meanwhile, there is some confusion over the condition of Florent Malouda-who apparently has picked up a knee injury-as details are vague and there are some suggestions that the winger has instead been dropped. At long last, Michael Ballack is finally on the comeback trail, making a 45 minute cameo appearance in a reserve team game against Birmingham City’s second-string. Striker Didier Drogba may be set to return to the squad, the Ivorian is currently recovering from a knee injury picked up on international duty last week.
Rosenberg’s starting line-up is expected to be the same as in the momentus 2-0 win over Valencia in the Mestalla three weeks ago. Former Tottenham striker Steffen Iversen bagged two that night and will be looking to put one over on Chelsea. Interestingly the Norwegian Tippeligaen league ended on November 3rd, and Rosenberg have not played a competitive match since the win against Valencia, choosing instead to play internal practices rather than warm-up friendlies.
Chelsea’s recent form in Norway has been highlighted ahead of this game, and it doesn’t read well on paper. One win in the last three games against Valerenga in 1999 is the highlight of our trips to Scandinavia, but defeats against Tromso (in the snow) and Viking Stavanger will hopefully be avenged when Chelsea line-up against Rosenberg on Wednesday night.
Both sides have one foot in the knock-out stages and will be going all out to secure their places. It will be interesting to see how Chelsea line-up, and if they can get the job done in difficult circumstances. All eyes will be on Avram Grant’s team selection and how he reacts as the game unfolds. Rosenberg have already seen off one of our bosses; could they really shock us again in the Lerkendal?
Prediction: I hope not! Rosenberg are a good team despite their modest finances and small status compared to the rest of the footballing world, and they will be looking to prove it to the watching audience. However, we are made of stern stuff ourselves, and the players will know they have a point to prove, as well as gaining a bit of retribution at the same time. I’m going for a hard-fought 2-1 win on a memorable-and most likely freezing-European night.