GRANT’S MEN NEED TO BE AT THE RACES
After Man City and Chelsea’s youth sides played out a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge in the first leg of the FA Youth Cup Final on Thursday night, Saturday sees a league meeting between the two senior sides. With the Blues still chasing the title, a weekend win at the City of Manchester Stadium is vital, and with City’s rivals Manchester United five points ahead of Chelsea at the top of the table, maybe the home fans will be willing on the visitors too! One thing’s for certain though; they will be looking to avoid another 6-0 trouncing like the one dished out in SW6 last October.
Chelsea will also be looking to bounce back from the mid-week defeat to Fenerbahce in the Champions League, with the City fixture just three days before the second leg against the Turkish champions. The squad may start getting a bit stretched, but too much rotation could prove costly in the long run. With no real injuries or suspensions, there could be a return to action for goalkeeper Petr Cech, who has been out since last month with an ankle problem. Carlo Cudicini has been deputising fairly well, although some fans have been bemoaning his diminutive stature (for a goalkeeper anyway), and his inability to hold crosses, so Cech’s return would be a huge boost to our defence. Nicolas Anelka could get a chance to play against one of his many former clubs if he gets on the pitch, along with ex-City winger Shaun Wright-Phillips.
Man City have been in limbo this season, with an impressive start to the campaign balanced out with some poor performances in recent months. With just four wins since the start of the year-including that 2-1 win at Old Trafford against Manchester United-a comfortable mid-table finish looks likely for Sven Goran Eriksson’s side. They will again be missing captain Micah Richards, a bedrock in their defence when fit but out after knee surgery earlier in the season. Left-back Michael Ball is also unavailable.
As I mentioned before, the last time these two sides met was back in October when a free-flowing Chelsea display resulted in a 6-0 win. Michael Essien opened the scoring, and a Didier Drogba brace was followed up by strikes from Joe Cole, Salomon Kalou and Andriy Shevchenko (remember him?) as we finally saw some ‘attacking football‘. The last clash between City and Chelsea at the City of Manchester Stadium was in March last season, when a tight game was settled by a first-half penalty from Frank Lampard.
The last time we lost at Eastlands also saw a penalty at the heart of the defeat, with Paulo Ferreira giving away a penalty scored by that man Anelka back in October 2004 to hand us our only defeat of what was to be a title-winning season.
I have a soft spot for City despite that defeat, maybe it’s because they did the double over United this season which could be key for our title challenge. There seems to be a good relationship between the fans as displayed in the Youth Cup game on Thursday, and with the second leg to be played at the City of Manchester Stadium, some of us will make two trips in two weeks to the ground. The game marks another stop on The Return to The Shed Tour with travel organised by our very own CFCnet, so we should see a good turn-out on Saturday. Let’s hope they are winning visits, with football the ultimate winner.
long with Chelsea obviously!
Prediction: City haven’t been at the races recently, and on Grand National day, the Blues will be the thoroughbreds on the day. I’m going for a 2-1 win but a 2-0 is very possible. Hopefully there’s a good atmosphere, matched by a solid performance on the pitch. See you there.