Jose Mourinho has his sights firmly set on the eleven wins required to bring Chelsea Premiership glory, with Blackburn at Ewood Park the first on the list. Having made eight changes to the side that beat Birmingham on Sunday, the Chelsea coach will be able to revert back to the big guns for this vital away match.
Just how vital the game will be depends upon events in north London on Tuesday evening. Arsenal and Manchester United – not to mention their respective managers – will be at each other’s throats once more although against an unfamiliar backdrop. The game would in any previous season, be billed as the title decider. However with Mourinho’s Blues in cruise control at the top of the pile, a draw at Highbury would present Chelsea with the chance to drive the final nails into the coffins of their two nearest rivals.
The previous meeting of the sides this season is notable for two reasons. Firstly for the first career hat trick for Eidur Gudjohnsen, and secondly for the explosive debut of Arjen Robben who showed Chelsea fans what lay ahead. The Dutchman’s dazzling skills will not have been forgotten by Blackburn full back Lucas Neill who will have the arduous task of having to contain him on Wednesday evening.
Blackburn as a team however are vastly improved form the one that visited Stamford Bridge earlier in the season. Manager Mark Hughes has dragged them out of the gutter in which Graeme Souness left them and into a position to stave off relegation. The transfer window addition of Robbie Savage should make their Premiership status safe, and annoy the likes of Chelsea en route.
The one area of genuine weakness in the Blackburn side is in attack where journeyman striker Paul Dickov and the youngster Jonathan Stead have not gelled as Hughes would have liked. Stead is yet to score in the league this term and whilst Dickov has scored seven, they will surely need more to trouble a Chelsea defence looking for its seventh consecutive league clean sheet.
John Terry’s back line is the finest the league has seen for many a year and is well on its way to beating the Liverpool record of only sixteen goals conceded in a season. Another clean sheet on Wednesday would surely see the Blues notch their seventh straight win such is their habit of free scoring at the other end. Didier Drogba may be the manager’s choice this time around with Gudjohnsen having started against Birmingham whilst Robben and Frank Lampard will feature from the start following substitute appearances at the weekend.
Dickov is Blackburn’s main doubt as he tries to shake off a groin complaint whilst Mourinho will be without Ricardo Carvalho who’s toe keeps him out and Robert Huth who hobbled out of Sunday’s game. Hughes will expect his side to get amongst Chelsea in an attempt to knock them out of their stride. Judging from the season so far however, it is hard to see how even the irrepressible Savage could manage such a thing.