As hard as it is to believe, there is more than one big match this week. Yes, apparently we are facing Arsenal, beside the forthcoming Porto match! This match may have little significance to the average Chelsea fan, but no doubt Mourinho will be smarting from the snakes (or more aptly Dragoes) that have not only bit the hand of their former master, but more literally spat in his face. Although, Mourinho will wish the majority of fans well, few would expect him to finish the game demanding anything but a win.
With Chelsea already qualified and a huge match against our silent rivals on Sunday, you could understand us fielding our youth team, let alone resting a few key players. However, Assistant Steve Clarke has assured the fans in the pre-match conference that there will be “just three or four [changes] at most”. The habitual change of goalkeepers is looking doubtful even though Cudicini, is fit enough to make the squad. He missed the clash against Newcastle with a slight knee injury, so may be deemed too much of a risk to warrant a first team place. Only other injury is Huth’s ongoing ankle problem, with youngster Nuno Morais drafted in as his replacement. Ferreira along with Carvalho are unlikely to want to be rested against the team where they made their name, but Mourinho is not one for sentiment. It remains to be seen if Johnson and Bridge will deputise for their Portugal teammates.
One player who may start from the bench is Frank Lampard. His grandfather passed away on the Saturday prior to the midweek Fulham victory, and consequently, to attend the funeral, will join up with the squad on the evening before the game. Lampard is not the only one to change his travel plans, with the whole of the team travelling 24 hours later than planned. The security fears surrounding the game have resulted in not only Chelsea travelling 24 hours later, but also not training on the pitch before the game nor Mourinho giving his usual pre-match conference (Clarke and Kezman his able replacements). Whether this lack of acclimatisation impacts on the performance, takes backseat to the genuine concern over the security of the players and staff. The infamous Helder Moto is to be detained for Chelsea’s stay in Portugal.
Up top, Kezman after featuring in the pre-match press conference and scoring his first Premiership goal, may also feature from the start. With only a Champions League goal required to complete the unlikely feat of scoring in all competitions, things could well be on the up for our Serbian & Montenegro international. There is an inkling that there may be a slight adaptation of the formation, changing from the usual 4-3-3 to a 4-2-3-1. This is the formation that Porto are famed for using, with Maniche and Costinha the holding midfielders. Makelele and Smertin or Parker could be used in this formation with the attacking 4, possibly seeing either Robben or Duff rested.
Porto go into the game knowing that even a win may not be enough for them to qualify for the next stage. Porto must win and PSG must not beat CSKA in order for the defending champions not to face the embarrassment of failing to qualify for the next stage. They certainly didn’t have the best of weekends, suffering a 1-0 home defeat to Beira Mar. Form favours us in our final group stage match, but the security surrounding the event and the need for Porto to produce a win, may be enough to distract the team from their usual winning rhythm.
The match is live on ITV2, coverage starts at 7.00, kick off 7.45.
Match Referee: Massimo Busacca, Switzerland.
Prediction: 2-1 Chelsea