Another victim set to be destroyed, or an obstacle in the way, set to slow down our mini-resurgence? Whatever they are, one thing is for certain. Bolton Wanderers are up next for the Blues at the Bridge, and they won’t leave without putting up a fight. Typically robust and epitomised by the barrel-chested forward Kevin Davies, Gary Megson’s side will tempt Chelsea into a battle, but with no away win since the end of November, it may turn out to be all in vain.
The man some Bolton fans call the ‘ginger Mourinho’ has been labelled as far worse things by others, and there is no doubting that Megson divides opinion up at the Reebok Stadium. In some ways, it comes as no surprise. A sluggish start to the season was followed by a more decent mid-section, but recent performances have perhaps established why the club currently sit in 12th place in the Premier League.
Losing against both Arsenal and Manchester United inside a fortnight to two late goals from Nicklas Bendtner and Dimitar Berbatov respectively is nothing to be ashamed about, and could be attributed to bad luck, and although there have been big wins against Middlesbrough (most likely by default due to Boro’s inability to do…well, anything but lose), Tottenham, West Ham and Newcastle in the last few weeks, these have all come in the relative comfort of Bolton’s home ground.
Away from home it is a different story entirely, and with Stamford Bridge looming, Megson’s men shouldn’t feel too confident about squaring up to Chelsea. Bolton are also blighted by the absences of midfielders Mark Davies and Joey O’Brien, who will both miss out through injury.
The Blues also have some selection headaches, although the main problem is probably bringing the side back down to earth following the majestic mid-week win over Liverpool. Games are beginning to come thick and fast, and with this being the business end of the season, most, if not all of them, are vitally important. We face Liverpool again on Tuesday so some players could find themselves taking a breather on Saturday in order to reach optimum fitness for the visit of the Reds.
José Bosingwa missed out on the Anfield trip due to a recent injury, and of course his replacement – and now goal-machine – Branislav Ivanovic, covered for him admirably. Dropping Ivanovic now would be cruel to say the least, but the Portuguese right-back is another option if Hiddink decides to attack Bolton from the off. The mono-browed one’s fellow countryman Ricardo Quaresma was ineligible for the Champions League game but returns to the squad for domestic action. Didier Drogba seemed to leave the field on Wednesday with some kind of ailment, which could see Nicolas Anelka start up-front against the side we bought him from last season.
Although we currently sit four points behind league leaders Manchester United, who have a game in hand against hapless Portsmouth, they have started to wobble spectacularly in recent weeks, and with Liverpool also showing serious signs of fallibility, there could be an opportunity to sneak up on both sides and overtake them before the season’s end. The last time we faced Bolton at the Bridge, the league title was also still a mathematical possibility. On the final day of last season Megson brought his side to SW6 with Chelsea needing a win for both themselves and Wigan – who were playing eventual champions Manchester United – to secure the crown. But in the end the game summed up our season; so near, yet so far. Andriy Shevchenko opened the scoring on 62 minutes following a frustrating first-half, but right at the death came a Matt Taylor equaliser. It didn’t matter anyway, United were comfortably ahead at the JJB, but it still rankled.
Although there is no way of making up for that game, in some way the game against Bolton this weekend could be an indication of how far we have come since the final day of last season, and indeed, the first half of this season. Hiddink has really galvanised the club and instilled a winning mentality into the squad once again, and if we play anything like we did against Liverpool in the week, then Bolton should prepare to feel the wrath of Guus’ Blues this Saturday.