Chelsea go from one extreme to the other this weekend as Nigel Worthington and Delia Smith bring their Norwich team to West London for a game that is vital to both sides. Having taken a point from Champions, Arsenal, at Highbury on Sunday, Jose Mourinho will want his team to press home their five-point advantage over the Christmas period.
On paper, any meaningful resistance by the visitors seems remote, but they will be hell bent on continuing their recent accumulation of points that has dragged them above the relegation zone. Having said that, the Canaries have not won away from Carrow Road all season, and Stamford Bridge is becoming something of a fortress for the boys in blue.
Chelsea will not take their guests lightly either. The team spirit and determination on display at Highbury is the hallmark of Championship pedigree and it is not reserved solely for the big occasion. Coming from behind twice to overcome the genius of Thierry Henry and the new ‘whistleless’ refereeing technique of Graham Poll shows the character required to dispatch the likes of Norwich with ease.
Newcastle demonstrated for nearly an hour that Chelsea can be contained when they visited London two weeks ago, but for Norwich to achieve similar success will take superhuman powers. Mourinho has found his favoured formation, and it takes some stopping.
The pace of Damien Duff and Arjen Robben, allied with the poise and composure of Eidur Gudohnsen is as potent an attacking force as you will see. Add to this the consistency that Claude Makelele and Frank Lampard add to the side, not to mention the defensive qualities of Ricardo Carvalho and John Terry, and Chelsea are hard to argue against.
Norwich will not come to London to lie down and finish their Christmas shopping however. Worthington has his men fired up and recent wins over both Bolton and Southampton show that his team may not quite be the relegation fodder anticipated by so many at the start of the season.
In Robert Green they have a young, talented keeper, capable of playing at the highest level. Indeed, the twenty-four year-old has even been linked with a move to Arsenal in the approaching transfer window, although such a move would seriously lessen the club’s chances of being a Premiership side come the summer.
Others crucial to Norwich’s relegation battle are the pacey Darren Huckerby, – who has yet to sparkle this term- Thomas Helveg and David Bentley. Helveg’s calibre is undoubted following so long playing for AC Milan in Serie A, whilst David Bentley, despite an undistinguished season thus far will be keen to impress Arsenal, who still hold his registration.
This should be a lively fixture to open the Christmas season, a time when Chelsea traditionally struggle. Mourinho will want to avoid any complacency however with another ruthless display that have become his side’s trademark this season. Norwich will need an early Christmas present if they are to avoid defeat, and complimentary goals are hard to come by at Stamford Bridge. Expect to see some dogged resistance ended by the vast gulf in class between the sides.