The current champions and early league leaders take on humiliated Wigan Athletic in the late kick-off on Saturday at the 25,000 capacity DW Stadium. Chelsea have lost once, last year’s debacle, at the DW but are odds on to leave with 3 points this time around.
Wigan were humiliated by local rivals and newly promoted Blackpool, managed by the effervescent Ian Holloway, on the opening day, whilst Chelsea demolished West Brom 6-0. Many Chelsea fans expect more of the same on Saturday. However a few words of caution… beware the wounded animal.
Firstly we were on a six match winning streak last year when we sauntered into the DW fully expecting a comfortable win but we left after arguably our worst display in recent times. Secondly when the Latics really needed a big result last year they beat title chasing Arsenal 3-2 scoring twice in the last 10 minutes. Thirdly Wigan will return to a more defensive 4-5-1 this week with new signing Argentinean striker and record club signing Mauro Boselli desperate to prove his worth to the pie loving locals. Therefore Chelsea will have to be patient and not panic if the early breakthrough doesn’t come. Finally the pitch is always a concern to me at the DW especially as the Rugby League team have already played on it this week.
Having expressed my concerns how do I expect Carlo et al to approach the first away match of the new season? I think the same team as the West Brom match will start with one exception, Ivanovic will come in for Ferreira to combat set piece threats. Rodallega is dangerous and I think Martinez will play him on the right to keep Ashley Cole pinned back. If Chelsea remain solid across the back four with Obi Mikel sitting, then we should have too much fire power up front for the shaky home defence to deal with. I feel that substitutions will be the deciding factor with Chelsea having the excellent Ramires, pacy Kalou and hopefully the incredibly skilful Kakuta available as potential match winners on a sapping surface.
So Chelsea you have been warned! Nothing would give Sir Alex (who incidentally opened this stadium in 1999) more pleasure on a rainy Saturday evening than to see a repeat of last year’s fiasco. I think Carlo will have learned a lesson from last year and I fully expect JT and Lamps to have the boys psyched up from the start. Chelsea to win 0-3 but it will not be one-way and probably won’t be decided entirely until those vital substitutions in the closing 20 minutes.