In the spirit of leaving things until the last minute, here’s a late look ahead to tonight’s trip to Portsmouth, hot on the heels of a last gasp win over Wigan on Saturday. Before Frank Lampard’s dramatic, heart-stopping header, it seemed as if it was going to be one of those days at the Bridge, but the winning goal instead cooked up memories of better times, of ‘Chelsea time’, where the team fought right up until the final whistle for a result. Now, hopefully still riding the wave if euphoria, we head down to the South Coast to visit struggling Pompey.
While Harry Redknapp spent Sunday afternoon at Wembley watching his Spurs side lose the Carling Cup final to Manchester United on penalties (they’re a bit good at them you know), Portsmouth, the side he began the season with, were left without a game and unable to do anything about their 16th place standing in the Premier League table.
Suffering financial problems and a lack of cohesion on the pitch since Redknapp left, Pompey have floundered since, hiring and firing the hapless yet happy Tony Adams after a string of bad results and replacing him with their third boss of the season, caretaker Paul Hart, who is ably assisted by Bryan Kidd. Although blighted by the transfers of Jermain Defoe to Spurs and Lassana Diarra to Real Madrid (he’s a bit good at transfers you know), Pompey were able to bring in the pacy Jermaine Pennant, the equally pacy Nadir Belhadj – a loan move made permanent – the dependable Hayden Mullins, and the Greek pair Theofanis Gekas and Angelos Basinas, to attempt to bolster their ranks ahead of a relegation dogfight.
Since Adams’ dismissal, Pompey have managed to remain unbeaten in two games, with a 2-2 draw against Stoke following an impressive 2-0 victory over Manchester City. However, the stats still show just two wins from the last ten games, and a measly two points between them and the relegation zone. A lengthy injury list doesn’t help matters, with six players possibly set to miss tonight’s game. Reserve ‘keeper Jamie Ashdown and giant midfielder Papa Bouba Diop are definitely out, while there are doubts over Marc Wilson, Jerome Thomas, Richard Hughes, and Armand Traore. Former Chelsea man Glen Johnson should feature, while there could also be a place in the side for Chelsea fan Sean Davis.
The Blues are still unable to call upon the services of Ricardo Carvalho as the Portuguese defender completes his comeback from the longest hamstring strain in history, while Michael Essien played a full 90 minutes of a reserve team defeat against Aston Villa’s second string on Monday night. José Bosingwa is available again following a one-game suspension which was served at the weekend, and the speedy full-back could be useful against Pompey’s quick wingers. Nicolas Anelka may miss out with a toe injury.
We may see another game where we find out what the point of Alex is – see Liverpool away earlier this season – as he is likely to line-up opposite beanpole striker Peter Crouch – Pompey’s top scorer with 13 goals. Crouch isn’t strong in the air, while Alex could probably take out an easyJet flight with a high enough jump.
Crouch was anonymous the last time we met Pompey in the league back in August. The sun was shining – I think – the goals were flowing, the performance unprecedented, the manager untouchable. As I said, that was way back in August though. Joe Cole opened the scoring in a 4-0 rout which also featured strikes from Anelka – the opening day of the season showing he started as he meant to carry on – Frank Lampard and Deco – showing he started, then stalled almost as quickly.
Pompey must have been relieved to get that out of the way so early in the season, but were again left rueing their bad luck as the League Cup third round threw up another meeting between the two sides, and another 4-0. Even Florent Malouda got on the score sheet this time around, sandwiched between a Lampard brace and followed up by a Salomon Kalou clincher. A rare collectors item indeed, two goals for Kalouda!
Pompey have typically struggled against us in recent years, and after they were promoted from Division One in 2003, they didn’t score against us until the seventh meeting in October 2006, with Benjani netting. Considering that right there was a whole 50% of goals they have scored against us in the last twelve games, they probably consider us a bogey team.
Continuing that theme tonight would we welcomed from a Chelsea point of view, but perhaps this time finish it off before the 90th minute please lads.