There is probably no sweeter word in the English dictionary. Say it aloud and see how it makes you feel. It’s almost impossible to utter this word and not smile immediately afterwards. Go on, shout it loud and proud:
Until fairly recently, it was about as important as any other word, but that was until the final Premier League game of last season when Chelsea absolutely pulverised Wigan 8-0 at Stamford Bridge in order to secure the domestic title in style; not to mention the 6-0 win at the DW Stadium very early on in this campaign. With the Blues currently playing out a disjointed season, it’s nice to look back at the days that Wigan contributed to creating the Pavlovian reflex.
9th May 2010 saw Chelsea desperate for three points to clinch the title, before goals from Nicolas Anelka and Frank Lampard provided a 2-0 lead at the break, while Gary Caldwell saw red for Wigan. Then the floodgates opened: Anelka bagging another, Didier Drogba netting a hat-trick, and Ashley Cole and Salomon Kalou also contributing to really rub it in.
21st August 2010 and Wigan were again on the receiving end of a battering, Anelka again troubling the Latics with a brace, a feat matched by Kalou, while Malouda and Yossi Benayoun put the icing on the cake. It’s great when you’re on top.
Unfortunately, since then the Blues have been hit and miss, but at home to bottom of the table Wigan should provide a smash this Saturday. The away side have only won two games on their travels in the league this season; only Fulham have won less (one). Their last away win in the Premier League was against Wolverhampton Wanderers – themselves entrenched in the relegation battle, sitting as they are in 19th place – on Boxing Day, although they also managed a victory against Hull City in the FA Cup on the 8th January.
Whatever happens on Saturday, the match will feature two sides who should theoretically be able to pick their strongest sides, with just one injured player between the pair of squads – Alex may miss out with a knee injury, although he did take part in a full training session late this week. With a crucial Champions League second-leg against Manchester United on Tuesday, Carlo Ancelotti should be looking to rest some key players.
Benayoun is back in contention after missing most of the season through injury, while Fernando Torres may never get a better chance to break his much-publicised barren spell in a Blues shirt. David Luiz should return after missing the Champions League game. So far, Cole, Petr Cech and Florent Malouda have featured in every Premier League game this season, with Cole and Cech starting each one and playing every minute.
It may come down to whether or not Ancelotti and his players are still thinking of the drama at the Bridge on Wednesday night, contrasting with the defiant attitude which Wigan’s relegation-battling squad should show. The Latics will put up a fight, but the question is, will Chelsea?