BLUES FRATTON BOUND
Despite the fact we are still waiting to take that last-minute free-kick against Manchester United (and its Monday morning by now, I‘m losing hope on that one), another game appears on the horizon with a League Cup clash against Portsmouth on Wednesday.
We travel to the atmospheric Fratton Park on the back of the United game which was never really allowed to get going thanks to the fussy Mike Riley who seemed to have his whistle surgically attached to his mouth specially for the match. Meanwhile, Pompey will want to forget all about their weekend’s “work“, as they were crushed 6-0 by Robinho et al at Manchester City.
Harry Redknapp’s side have already played us this season, with the final score a goal-difference harming 0-4 on the opening Sunday of the 2008/09 campaign, but after winning the FA Cup last season, they are perhaps looking to add its little brother to their trophy cabinet this time around.
Pompey will have a few players missing – much like they did against City it seems – as they look to bounce back from their heaviest Premier League defeat ever. Striker Ben Sahar is unavailable because of the terms of his loan agreement between us and Pompey, while Richard Duffy, Sean Davis, Lauren, Richard Hughes, Jerome Thomas and the lively playmaker Nico Kranjcar will all miss out through a various assortment of injuries.
Summer signings Peter Crouch, Younes Kaboul, Armand Traore and Nadir Belhadj should all feature however, while there are likely starts also for ex-Blues Glen Johnson and Lassana Diarra, with the latter probably exactly what we could do with right now with injuries to our own centre-midfield options.
The ‘I’ word has cropped up again at the Bridge it seems, with Deco and Ricardo Carvalho the latest victims of the SW6 curse. Deco pulled out of the United game after injuring a thigh in the pre-match warm-up, while Carvalho limped off inside 15 minutes of the match with a knee problem. With Michael Essien still out and Michael Ballack and Didier Drogba short of match fitness, Luis Felipe Scolari will have some decisions to make over the starting XI, and may make some changes to the side with drew on Sunday. Salomon Kalou – scorer of the equaliser – may find himself starting against Pompey, while there is some clamour in the forums over Argentinean striker Franco Di Santo, with some fans believing he is worth a gamble in this competition. Fringe players including Carlo Cudicini, Wayne Bridge, Alex, Branislav Ivanovic and Scott Sinclair could also be given minutes.
Pompey have been infamously poor against Chelsea in recent years, and haven’t beaten the Blues for 48 years, with that win coming at Fratton Park. Last season did see an end to a run of 11 Chelsea wins without reply with a 1-1 draw in Portsmouth in February. After an impressive counter-attacking goal scored by Nicolas Anelka, Jermain Defoe hit back nine minutes later to secure a point for Pompey, with Diarra particularly eye-catching for the home side.
Having conceded four times as many league goals as us so far this season, on paper it looks like a simple game to predict. However, Redknapp must still be smarting after such a heavy defeat to Manchester City and will want to give the fans something to cheer about again, not that they need much impetus though! The Pompey supporters will be vociferous throughout and if the players respond to them, we could find ourselves playing against a 12th man.
Portsmouth caused us some problems last season and will be no walkover, and it will be interesting to see how Scolari approaches this competition. Although it is a good chance of silverware and still a special tournament despite some sides showing it disrespect, squads are often rotated heavily with league and European commitments prioritised over it. It won’t quite be Pompey Reserves V Chelsea Reserves, but expect something a bit different at Fratton Park this Wednesday night.
Portsmouth host Chelsea in the League Cup Third Round on Wednesday night at Fratton Park, kick-off is 19:45 GMT.
Prediction: It could be tough and will most probably not be the free-flowing display of the opening weekend but I think we’ll come away with the win, with a 2-1 scoreline sending us into the next round and on our way to our second home Wembley again.