Chelsea travel to Wigan for Ancelotti’s latest test, in what is just our second Saturday 3pm kick off of the season.
In the league Ancelotti has been known to change formation away from home, and with Joe Cole and Yuri Zhirkov back in the fold, perhaps he has another change up his sleeve? Drogba has been confirmed as being back, leaving a good chance of two up front. Michael Ballack, turning 33 tomorrow, has more competition for his place then usual and I’d be surprised if Mikel and Essien both started, the chances I think are that Mikel will be benched, Essien will hold the midfield, Malouda on the left, Lampard situated on the right of the diamond (but playing a central role) and Joey Cole at the top of it, but drifting out to the right sometimes.
Having someone that can go out wide is something that I think we have missed, whilst Joey likes to cut in and isn’t one for hitting the wing, Anelka’s had to prevent there being a noticeable hole on the right. Whereas Malouda and Ashley Cole have worked well and supported each other, Jose Bosingwa often has to rely on Anelka to provide support, dragging the Frenchmen away from where we need him, if Joe Cole can provide an option by floating out right, hopefully we can see different attacking options utilised. Joey has been sorely missed IMO and although I hate the cliche about a player offering what others can’t, he genuinely can.
Ancelotti has today confirmed that Deco and Alex are both out for us, with the former hopefully back by Liverpool, and the latter in about two weeks.
Scott Sinclair is on loan at Wigan thus making him ineligible, although this shouldn’t provide Martinez any problems as thus far he has not started for them yet. Mario Melchiot however is available to play, and is Wigan’s captain so is expected to start.
Our record against Wigan has been great, having only failed to beat them once in Premiership, a match which severely dented our title hopes under Avram Grant. To be fair to Wigan, though we nearly always do end up victorious, normally it is a very close score, with the two matches in 2007 being the only times we’ve won by more then a goal in the past four seasons, a 4-0 win at home in Jan and a 2-0 away in November.
Who can forget their introduction to the Premiership, at home to us live on the tele, Wigan had many chances and nearly won the game at the end, their fans had been (quite justifiably) singing ‘Whats it like to be outclassed’? to us, and then a long ball from Cech was flicked on to Crespo, who unleashed a fantastic strike from the edge of the box that rifled into the top corner. José, such was his annoyance at our performance, didn’t even celebrate the goal and felt sympathy for the extremely unlucky Paul Jewell.
Last season saw a very early Deco free kick separate the sides in the second game of the season, Scolari’s first away match. Christmas time 06/07 was another of our late winners, with the match tied at 2-2, Robben scored in the last minute to grab all three points. Juliano Belletti scored a screamer when we visited under Avram Grant in a 2-0 win, with Lamps getting the other goal.
At Stamford Bridge last season we took a first half lead through a cracking John Terry volley, before Kapo equalised within the last ten minutes, in injury time Lampard looped a header over Kirkland to secure a dramatic victory.
Robert Martinez has a bit of pressure mounting on him, a great away win at Villa in his first game has not be advanced on, their record against the big four doesn’t make for good reading, it’s not just the losses but the scorelines, Man United won 5-0 at the rebranded DW Stadium, Arsenal last week won 4-0 at the Emirates, West Ham are the only team they have beaten since the opening day.
A goal for Drogba would be his hundredth for the club. Lampard is level with Greaves for goals scored so a goal would put him fifth, Lamps isn’t yet filling his quota for the season, 20 goals this season would see him surpass Ossie and Bentley and become our third highest ever scorer. Frank, if your going to hit 20 this season you need to pull your finger out and add to your total of one goal so far.
Should we not lose, then we’ll have set a new club record of 24 games unbeaten in all competitions, eclipsing the 23 we went through from the start till middle of 2007.
Phil Dowd takes charge of this encounter, he’s not issued a red card yet this season, the last match he reffed involving us was the 4-1 away win at Arsenal (1y), last season he also officiated the 1-0 win on that rainswept night at Fratton Park in March (0y), the goalless draw with Everton just before Christmas when John Terry got sent off (3y, 1r) and the 5-0 away demolition of Middlesbrough (2y). The only match at The Bridge he reffed was the goalless draw against Newcastle (2y).
Predicted Team: Cech, A.Cole, Terry, Carvalho, Bosingwa, Essien, Malouda, Lampard, J. Cole, Anelka, Drogba
Predicted Score – 2-0 – Lampard and Joey Cole.