ONWARD AND UPWARDS
Here is the chance for retribution. The Carling Cup debacle still lies heavy in every Chelsea fans’ mind, and why shouldn’t it? Losing to Tottenham, playing so badly, losing to Tottenham, relinquishing our grasp on the League Cup, losing to Tottenham. But now, almost a month later, in a game postponed to make way for the cup final, we can start to vanquish the demons and get back to winning ways against Spurs. But forget that Wembley date, with Arsenal coming up on Sunday and just three points standing between us and the top of the Premier League, every game from now on is a real cup final.With two wins on the bounce since that other cup shambles against Barnsley, it appears as if a winning formula has bubbled up to the surface. Frank Lampard has been in inspirational form, Salomon Kalou is suddenly showing the ability we’ve all been waiting to see, while Michael Ballack is defying his own fitness levels to play week in, week out at a high level. Wholesale changes would most likely be costly, so hopefully we’ll only see a couple of alterations from the side which edged past Sunderland 1-0 on Saturday. With no major injuries to speak of, the only question mark lingers over the condition of Petr Cech and his ankle injury, which could have recovered in time for the visit to White Hart Lane.
Tottenham have been inconsistent in recent weeks, and since beating us in the League Cup, have lost three and won two (not including a penalty shoot-out defeat against PSV Eindhoven last week), scoring seven and conceding seven. Juande Ramos will feel he has the upper hand over Chelsea, but it all depends on which Tottenham shows up on Wednesday night, and if Robbie Keane-who threw a tantrum after being subbed off in Sunday’s defeat to Manchester City-has thrown his toys out of the pram yet. Spurs have a few injury worries ahead of the game, with defenders Ricardo Rocha, Younes Kaboul, Gareth Bale and Benoit Assou-Ekotto all out of contention.
Last year’s league game at White Hart Lane is only worth mentioning because of a rare Claude Makelele goal. A 30-yard volley was meant to set us on our way to yet another victory against Tottenham, but things didn’t really go according to plan, largely thanks to “professional” referee Graham Poll. Poll disallowed a perfectly legitimate Didier Drogba goal then sent off John Terry, both incidents completely innocuous and inexplicably refereed by Mr Three Yellow Cards. We had more joy in an FA Cup Quarter-Final replay, where a sensational Andriy Shevchenko strike was followed up by a vital Shaun Wright-Phillips goal, which proved to be the winner. A Keane penalty for Spurs only proved to be a consolation.
The corresponding fixture this season at Stamford Bridge saw another Wright-Phillips effort after a (now) trademark Juliano Belletti 30-yarder to hand the Blues a 2-0 win back in January. With Spurs floundering in 11th, they are playing the part of the typical mid-table side. They won’t go down, and they won’t finish high up due to inconsistency and frankly a lack of effort with European action already secured for next season. They should be there for the taking, and with this being our game in hand on Arsenal (Manchester United also play on Wednesday against Bolton to put every team in the league on 30 games played), we have to make it count. As I said before, every game from now is a cup final. This time we have to get it right, and the three points could prove to be as valuable as silverware itself.
Prediction: Spurs aren’t covering themselves in any glory at the moment and I hope we can take advantage. Anything other than a win at this stage of the season would be a major disappointment, so I’m going for another 1-0 win, similar to the Sunderland game. Then we can all forget about that bloody cup final