With Chelsea looking to recover from the chaotic 3-1 defeat suffered in Naples in midweek, the upcoming tussle with relegation-threatened Bolton should provide the perfect opportunity to halt the winless run of five games. And despite our current poor form, we have not lost to Bolton in the last fifteen meetings. That said, matches between ourselves and the Wanderers have had a recent tendency to be pivotal to our Premier League campaigns. Let’s take a look back at some of the more memorable clashes between the two sides from the last fifteen years…
Chelsea 2-0 Bolton Wanderers, Stamford Bridge, Sunday 10th May, 1998
The clubs met on the final day of the 1997/98 season, with Chelsea due to compete in the Cup Winners’ Cup Final in Stockholm just three days later. The Lancashire side needed three points to stand a chance of saving themselves from relegation at the expense of fellow strugglers Everton, but it was not to be as goals from Blues player-manager Gianluca Vialli and budding midfielder Jody Morris inflicted a 2-0 defeat and demotion from the Premier League. Eager to see Everton relegated, the Stamford Bridge crowd tried to encourage Wanderers to an equaliser after the opener had been scored. The Blues finished 4th in the Premier League with this victory, and went on to Cup Winners’ Cup glory with a 1-0 Final win against Stuttgart, thanks to a solitary Gianfranco Zola strike.
Chelsea 1-2 Bolton Wanderers, Stamford Bridge, Saturday 13th December, 2003
The first season of the Roman Abramovich era saw Claudio Ranieri, in his final season with the club, attempt to mount a title challenge against Arsenal and Manchester United. Hernan Crespo notched the opening goal in the first half, but Bruno N’Gotty’s swift equaliser saw the game level until John Terry’s last-minute own-goal handed the Trotters all three points. It was their first win at Stamford Bridge since their manager, Sam Allardyce, was part of the team that triumphed in West London 28 years previously. Chelsea would go on to finish as runners-up in the Premier League, and progressed to the semi-final of the Champions League, where they were defeated by Monaco. Bolton finished in eighth place and reached the final of the Carling Cup, but were beaten by Steve McLaren’s Middlesbrough.
Bolton Wanderers 0-2 Chelsea, Reebok Stadium, Saturday 30th April, 2005
Frank Lampard’s second-half brace secures Chelsea FC’s first league title win for 50 years, and delivers Jose Mourinho the Premier League trophy in his first season as manager. The most memorable 90 minutes of this Chelsea supporter’s life, and strangely still somewhat surreal to this day. In addition to the league triumph, a Millenium Stadium win against Liverpool in February had already placed the Carling Cup to the trophy cabinet. But the Anfield outfit had their revenge just four days after the Bolton fixture, as Luis Garcia’s phantom goal gave Liverpool their place in Istanbul’s Champions League Final, in one of the most painful defeats of the Mourinho era. Meanwhile, Bolton managed another impressive league position, finishing sixth.
Chelsea 2-2 Bolton Wanderers, Stamford Bridge, Saturday 28th April, 2008
History would repeat itself as Mourinho’s Chelsea, chasing a third successive Premier League trophy, would meet Allardyce’s men just days before another Champions League Semi-Final 2nd Leg against Liverpool at Anfield. In desperate need of points in order to keep in touch with top-of-the-table Manchester United, we fell behind to a Michalik goal before Salomon Kalou restored parity with a quick equaliser. Jussi Jaaskelainen inadvertently helped our cause with a timely own goal just before the break, but Kevin Davies struck in the second-half to level for his side. The game saw no more goals, and Davies’ effort effectively killed off Chelsea’s title aspirations after United beat Everton 4-2 at Goodison Park that same day. We finished 2nd, and there would be more heartbreak for Mourinho and co later that week, as the Champions League campaign ended with another frustrating defeat to Benitez-led Liverpool, this time on penalties. Stamford Bridge still welcomed the two domestic cup trophies, as Didier Drogba’s heroic Final performances saw him hit two goals against Arsenal in the 2-1 Carling Cup Final victory, and also score the only goal in extra-time of the Wembley FA Cup Final versus Manchester United. Bolton maintained top-half Premier League status with a seventh-placed finish.
Bolton Wanderers 1-5 Chelsea, Reebok Stadium, Sunday 2nd October, 2011
Frank Lampard responded to media scrutiny over his place in Andre Villas-Boas’ plans with a hat-trick, and Danny Sturridge bagged two goals against the club for which he performed so well during the second-half of last season. Five goals may have been somewhat flattering given the nightmare form of Wanderer’s goalkeeper on the day, Adam Bogdan, but alongside the home win against Manchester City, the thrashing of Owen Coyle’s men must be regarded as one of the best performances of Villas-Boas’ reign thus far. Coyle’s prized asset and England centre-half Gary Cahill, who turned out for Bolton in this fixture, moved to Stamford Bridge in January for £7million.
Chelsea vs Bolton Wanderers, Stamford Bridge, Saturday 25th February 2012
Historically, we have regularly gone into fixtures against Bolton with a huge requirement for points, and this weekend’s game will be no different having fallen out of the top four after the defeat against Everton. An even greater motivation is the fact that out-of-form fourth-placed Arsenal have a very tricky derby fixture against Spurs, so we must pick up a win from the Bolton game in order for us to capitalise if the Gunners do drop points.
Our opponents on Saturday are in 19th place and are still suffering from what was their worst start to a league campaign in 109 years. Their league form is dreadful but their FA Cup run so far will give them confidence, and the fact that a win at the Bridge could take them out of the relegation zone makes their need for points just as great as our own.
As far as omens go, a recall for Frank Lampard could prove beneficial, as he has netted more goals against Bolton than any other player at the club. The media sub-plot of AVB’s team selection will undoubtedly surround the pre-match build-up, but I would expect the side that finished the game against Napoli to start on Saturday. This would mean the inclusion of Cole, Essien, and Lampard. I would also expect Drogba to keep his place over Torres, whose lack of goals in the Ivorian’s recent absence could prove detrimental to his opportunities in the run-in.
If there is anything to be learned from the history of the fixtures between our Chelsea and Bolton Wanderers, it is that while they are, more often than not, a team we would expect to beat, they have proved to be a banana skin on more than one occasion and have crashed a couple of parties in SW6 over the years. Yet, although three points on Saturday will not win us any leagues or secure any silverware, this fixture might just be the one we need to pick up our home form and kickstart our push for fourth place.
Ryan Hollands @TheRyski