With the Champions League knockout stages (Champions League Betting) just under a month away, AVB’s focus is on Saturday’s Premier League early kick-off that sees Chelsea travel to East Anglia to face a prickly Norwich side which has exceeded expectation this season.
The last time these two sides met in a league fixture at Carrow Road was in March 2005. Chelsea won comfortably and went on to win their first title in 50 years; Norwich were relegated on the last day of the season. The Canaries finished with 33 points; the Blues with 95. The home side, this season, already have 28 points and look likely to survive, whilst the away side have just 40 – even if Andre Villas-Boas’ side win all of their remaining games, they still would still only achieve 91 points. The gulf in class between these sides has clearly shrunken, and that adds to the excitement of the Premier League.
Only West Brom (currently 15th in the Premier League), Bolton (19th) and Wigan (20th) spent less money than Norwich in the summer, and this tells you something about what a great job Paul Lambert is doing at Carrow Road. Over their past eight games, stretching back to 10 December, his side have won four, drawn three and lost only one – an identical record to Chelsea’s – and have scored 15 goals – two more than the Blues.
The Canaries will quite rightly feel they have a chance of getting something from this game. It’s worth pointing out, though, that they haven’t managed to come away with anything in previous encounters with the big sides this season (a 1-1 draw at Anfield is hardly a scalp these days).
However impressive the hosts have been this season, the onus will undoubtedly be with the Blues. A four-game winless run in late December has masked a great improvement in the side since their November defeat at home to Liverpool, and AVB will expect to collect his fourth win in four in 2012.
Despite losing Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou to the Africa Cup of Nations, the squad is looking in excellent shape. Saturday’s victory over Sunderland was narrow, but the overall performance was very impressive. Fernando Torres gave his best performance in a Chelsea shirt, while Michael Essien, introduced late on, looked like a new signing. Add to that the transfer of Gary Cahill and the returns from injury of Daniel Sturridge, Branislav Ivanovic and, possibly, John Obi Mikel, and things are looking very bright for the Blues.