Spring, the season of growth, is well and truly on the way, the clocks move an hour one way or the other (I’m rubbish at remembering mnemonics, the irony of which is not lost on me), the weather starts to get a little warmer and it’s my birthday, which is nice. So what’s changing at our favourite football club? Nothing I hope, unless of course we lost to Manchester City on Saturday, a game which in some ways would be a more accurate barometer for our ongoing progress from journeymen to champions than our recent victory over Stuttgart. If we lost, the whole sorry process of Red Top speculation over Ranieri’s future will once again dominate the headlines. And I’m sick of it. This correspondent is one hundred percent behind Claudio Ranieri until the very end of the season. In fact, I want him to stay for at least one more season, and that’s all you’ll be hearing of my opinion on Ranieri for a while. Probably.
Due to our early exit from the FA Cup at the hands of That Team, the month starts with a rest. First game in March is at home to Stuttgart on Tuesday 9th in the Champions League and we carry a somewhat fortuitous one goal advantage into the tie. But I think we earned that victory over Stuttgart and there will be a good deal of confidence carried on fresh legs into this game and we’ll beat them comfortably and keep a clean sheet. We’ll probably be drawn against That Team for the last eight, but I don’t care. It would be the ultimate smack in the face to beat them in the Champions League and I’m sure our players have already forgotten the two recent defeats and would be well up for giving them a bloody nose.
The next Premiership game is a lunchtime kick-off in Lancashire against Bolton Wanderers on the 13th. It’s not a Friday, and we don’t need any luck, good or otherwise. As I write this, they’ve just slipped into the bottom half of the Premiership and haven’t won a league game since the end of January. They have a pretty poor goal difference too, so they ship a few goals without scoring many. We lost to them at home in December, the same month we lost to Charlton and Aston Villa, as if anyone is likely to forget. However, that was truly a month of mixed fortunes for Chelsea – we drew with Leeds after all – and the players will have long since put those painful memories behind them. I don’t think we’ll keep a clean sheet here, but we will come away with three points. Manchester City put three past them at the Reebok recently. I see no reason we can’t repeat that and would love to see Crespo on the score sheet at least twice.
The following Saturday, the 20th, sees us play host to our West London cousins, Fulham. I’ll be there, so if you fancy buying me late birthday beers feel free to drop me a line. A great deal depends on which Fulham turns up for this game whether we get a decent result or not. Although they’ve managed to beat Manchester United this season at Old Trafford, they recently lost to Wolves and their current ninth position in the table may not be a good indicator of where they’ll finish this season, particularly in this, their post-Saha era. Another three points for the Blues and a good change for another clean sheet, thank you very much.
So, the last weekend of March. Home to Wolves on the 27th , the weekend British Summertime officially begins. We beat them five-nil at Molineux last September, and I can see no reason why we should not walk away from this with a clean sheet and a three goal margin. At this stage in the team’s development we should be brushing aside teams like Wolves and I sincerely hope that is exactly what happens. What is probably more interesting is that on Sunday our nemesis plays host to Manchester United. Let’s hope that the Red Devils have been lifted from their recent defensive doldrums and can secure a victory at Highbury. In a month when I can see us going undefeated that would be a fantastic result and help to open up the Premiership for the run-in to the end of the season.
So, we should be marching on this month. It looks on the surface of things to be a fairly simple period, with a rest and a couple of comfortable wins. This should be a good time for Ranieri to bed down his core team. Claudio, please forego the tinkering and get some good wins in the bag because there are just eight games left after this and slip-ups are not an option. We need to win all these games in a convincing manner and I can see no reason why we shouldn’t.
Come On You Blues!