REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL
The goals are flying, the play is flowing, and even Nicolas Anelka is smiling! These are good times for Luis Scolari’s boys and all who follow them, and the Blues’ globetrotters roll on to Italy this Tuesday with Roma awaiting in the Champions League.
Although the reverse game was more battling than breathtaking, John Terry’s header late on securing a 1-0 win for Chelsea, the Blues have an impressive away record so far this season with six wins from seven games in all competitions, and the only blip a 0-0 draw against Cluj in the Champions League. Scolari’s side top Group A regardless, with Roma and Bordeaux tied for bottom, and with the Italians struggling so far this season it could be the perfect opportunity for the Blues to all but secure qualification to the knockout stages of Europe’s elite competition.
Roma lost on Saturday to Juventus in Serie A, leaving Luciano Spalletti’s side hovering just above the relegation zone, with Spalletti himself perched precariously close to the Giallorossi chopping block. Since losing at Stamford Bridge on October 22nd, Rome have lost to Udinese and Claudio Ranieri’s Turin side in the league, with five consecutive defeats now on the board. Talisman Francisco Totti may miss out against Chelsea with a knee problem, while attacking midfielder Alberto Aquilani is also a doubt.
Despite a 5-0 win on Saturday against Sunderland, it wasn’t all good news for Scolari as he saw left-back Ashley Cole limp off inside 40 minutes with a calf problem. Cole is consequently ruled out of the European tie, with Wayne Bridge set to step in for him. Ricardo Carvalho, Michael Ballack and Michael Essien are also missing, however Ivorian striker Didier Drogba will continue his comeback from injury, albeit from the bench, as Scolari has confirmed that the weekend’s hat-trick hero Anelka will maintain his starting berth.
Yet to concede in Europe this season, Chelsea will be confident of getting through this tie unscathed. With Spalletti edging closer and closer to the exit door at the Italian giants, the Blues could be the side to send him out, and after such a disappointing start to the season for Roma it wouldn’t be a huge surprise. Frankly, this game is extremely winnable for Chelsea and with a place in the knock-out stages all but assured, three points on Tuesday would be another step towards that goal. It could prove to be the first of two trips to the Stadio Olimpico this season.
Prediction: Another tight 1-0 win, but with Petr Cech barely troubled last time around, he may find himself a little busier this time around.