Sunday morning, 7:40am. In a swanky hotel somewhere near Old Trafford, Manchester, the Chelsea squad have just returned to their respective rooms after an early morning fire alarm was mysteriously set off. A moustached figure makes his way up to the penthouse suite and climbs back into bed, with a diminutive Portuguese midfielder curling up at the foot of the duvet. A phone rings. The moustached figure answers it and hears a Scottish voice at the other end of the line. He hears the following:
“Hello, is that a Mr Scolari, first name Bigphil? I’m calling from downstairs in the hotel lobby, apologies once again for that whole business with the fire alarm…no Mr Scolari that wasn’t just you hearing alarm bells going off…We have warned Mr Maradona about his cigars but he blamed it on the lighter of God or something, says he was inspired to spark up…Anyway, just calling to confirm your ‘wake-up call’…That’s right, you are due one. It will be at about 5:50pm today at Old Trafford…
…We hope you have enjoyed your stay with us, we might see you again next season. Probably not, but we might. As for the chocolate pudding spilt on your bed, please do not worry. We didn’t expect you to keep a clean sheet. And as for the stains on the bed posts, just leave them…You didn’t mark them? Oh, in that case, continue to leave both posts unmarked…Enjoy the game Bigphil, we know we will…
Back in the real, disappointing, gloomy world:
Apologies first and foremost for the bizarre beginning but truth be told I hadn’t anticipated doing a preview for an FA Cup third round replay. Why not? Well, y’know, we were playing a League One side in the third round proper. At home. I thought I’d have a break this week. In fact, I thought the only time I’d be thinking of lower league sides was last night when I peculiarly dreamt that we won the Champions League, beating Barnsley in the final. Ridiculous I know, we couldn’t really beat Barnsley.
Anyway, Southend. Where to start? Last time around I had the help of a friendly Shrimpers fan on the Live Match Forum to run through the team. But the forums are down. Maybe I’ll take a look at how they played at the weekend. What’s that? Their game against Crewe was postponed because of a frozen pitch. Great stuff, when it rains it pours. And then it freezes.
So, from my extensive first-hand research (BBC, Wikipedia, ShrimperZone.com) I have discovered Southend are 14th in League One and they want to beat us.
Meanwhile down in SW6, with both reserves and youth team in action this week it seems as if Scolari is prepared to throw the majority of the first-team into action at Roots Hall. So, basically he’s made no real changes. Fancy that! We may see some slight alterations from the XI who featured in Sunday Flipping Sunday, however with Michael Mancienne and Franco di Santo playing for only 45 minutes on Monday in a reserve tie against Fulham, they may be in for a place on the bench on Wednesday. Alex, Florent Malouda and Michael Essien are the only injuries at the time of writing, though there is still time for Didier Drogba to further damage his reputation as a clinical striker between now and Wednesday evening.
As far as tactics go, I fully expect Mr Scolari to go over the Manchester United game thoroughly, spot the mistakes we made and the tactical changes which need to be made, then completely ignore them and play exactly like we do every game. Perhaps this time we’ll get some shots on target though. Expect a Southend goal at some point where a corner comes in and all eleven of the home side get their head to the ball before a Chelsea defender reacts.
If this is all sounding a bit negative, good. I tried being positive for the United game and I really had that shoved back down my throat by a dire performance and a toothless display of ineptitude. I’d love to say we will thrash Southend and go on an unbeaten run from now until the sun burns out but I can’t even begin to predict what will happen on Wednesday. We all thought United could be the turning point for us after a dismal few months, but it wasn’t. We are trying to turn the corner (memo to self, stop mentioning corners) but who knows when we will?
Come on Chelsea, prove me wrong. Starting with Southend on Wednesday.