Portsmouth are the visitors to Stamford Bridge this Saturday as Chelsea look to extend their Premiership lead to thirteen points with Arsenal waiting until Sunday to face Newcastle at Highbury. Jose Mourinho senses how close he is to squeezing the life out of Chelsea’s challengers and will expect his side to continue their untouchable league form against a team placed thirteenth in the table.
The Blues have taken maximum points form their last six fixtures whilst not conceding a single goal in the process. Beating Pompey would see them equal their longest ever winning run in the top flight- achieved in 1922- and in doing so heap yet more pressure on the warring Arsene Wenger and Alex Ferguson. Few could have expected Mourinho to have such instant success when he arrived in the summer. We are nearly in February and the Portuguese sits at the top of the table unflustered whilst his rivals pursue a personal spat of mammoth proportions. The stage could not be better set for Mourinho to end Chelsea’s fifty-year wait for a league title.
That is not to say that Velimir Zajec’s side will be coming to the Bridge to help Chelsea on their way to glory. Pompey are a battling side and it was only by two late goals that Chelsea won the recent meeting between the sides at Fratton Park. Despite an FA Cup tie with hated rivals Southampton looming large on the Pompey horizon, they will be fully committed to attaining a precious result away from home.
Aiyegbeni Yakubu will be crucial to their chances, particularly if they have the chance to break. The Nigerian disappointed in last year’s fixture when Chelsea ran out 3-0 winners, but his form of late has led to talks of a move to Newcastle and he is the most likely Pompey player to trouble the Chelsea defence. Lomana Lua Lua is another for the likes of John Terry to keep a close eye on. His trickery and turn of pace have troubled the likes of Arsenal in recent months and although he and Yakubu are unlikely to both play the full ninety minutes, Chelsea will have to work hard for their seventh straight clean sheet
One man not appearing for Pompey this weekend is Nigel Quashie. The former QPR man completed his £2.1 million move to Southampton and became the second most unpopular man in Portsmouth behind his new boss Harry Redknapp. Also unavailable will be Steve Stone, Andy Griffin and Hayden Foxe, all of whom are carrying injuries.
Chelsea are not without their injury worries either. Scott Parker continues to recover from his broken metatarsal whilst Ricardo Carvalho’s broken toe, having initially been thought of as a minor injury, will now take a few more weeks to heal according to Mourinho. Robert Huth has returned to training following his ankle injury although it is unlikely that he will be ready to make the bench.
Mourinho will not change his recent winning formula when it comes to his formation. Arjen Robben and Damian Duff will be providing the bullets for either Eidur Gudjohnsen or Didier Drogba to fire. Midfielder Jiri Jarosik is in line for a first Premiership start alongside regulars Frank Lampard and Claude Makelele, whilst William Gallas will be making his 150th Chelsea start in a defence likely to be unchanged from the one that faced Tottenham last weekend.
Much depends upon the first goal in this match. Chelsea will be heavy favourites to score it, though the longer it takes them the more Pompey’s belief will grow. An early goal for the home side however and it could well be a long afternoon for Zajec and his men. Expect a rousing atmosphere in West London as the bell ringing; bugle throwing Pompey fans vie for supremacy with the Matthew Harding Lower. On the field, the Blues will surely have a little too much for the plucky visitors to handle.