Chelsea face Swansea for the fourth time this season on Sunday as we continue the chase for a top four finish.
Thursday nights away win in Basle provided a boost after what can only be described as a ‘stitch up’ away at Liverpool last week. How vital those two dropped points will be come the end of the season we don’t yet no, but some shocking refereeing certainly cost us. This theme continued into Thursday as Basle’s goal in our 1-2 win came courtesy of a penalty decision that can be added to the ever-lengthening list of shocking decisions given against Chelsea in European competition.
There is likely to be even more debate about Referee’s in the lead up to our match on Sunday, as it includes the return to Stamford Bridge of Mark Clattenburg.
Long before the incident involving Mikel and the alleged abuse which resulted in a suspension for Clattenburg until he was later cleared, and a three match ban for Mikel for entering the referee’s changing room, Clattenburg was not a favourite amongst the Chelsea support. There were numerous occasions when he had given some harsh decisions against us, and indeed not given some blatantly obvious ones in our favour. One that springs to mind was his failure to award us a penalty after Johnny Evans planted his boot studs up into Drogba’s chest in the area, for which nothing was awarded. We can only hope that come five o’clock Sunday evening the referee is not the talking point again. One slightly ominous point is that we have had three players sent off in our last five matches with Swansea.
Swansea arrive at the Bridge having one win and two draws from our three meetings this season, with their last visit here seeing them leave with a 0-2 win in the league cup semi final first leg. Whilst there are no complaints that we didn’t do enough to beat them over two legs in that tie, there away win was due to a double error from Branislav Ivanovic. His two shocking pass backs assisting both of their goals. Aside from our 4-1 home win in the league last season, we have found it hard work against Swansea since their promotion. We are yet to win at the Liberty Stadium, two tightly contested draws being played out, and one not so close encounter where we were lucky to steal a last minute equaliser thanks to a Jose Bosingwa deflected shot. Swansea have continued where they left off last season under Michael Laudrup. They continue to play an attractive brand of football, and the players they lost in the summer have not been missed, with able replacements being brought in who have shone this season. Notably Michu who needs no introduction, somewhat more under the radar but no less important has been Ki Sung Yeung in midfield, who has helped them to continue with the attacking system they like to utilise. He is very adept at using the ball, and does his share of the work defensively as well. Pablo Hernandez was another new acquisition slotting into the wide role vacated by Scott Sinclair admirably. Laudrup has no new injury worries heading into the fixture so expect a similar line up to which we faced in the League cup, Minus Danny Graham who departed for Sunderland in January.
Swansea have suffered a dip in form since winning the League Cup at the end of February, and are winless in their last five, drawing two and losing three. They sit ninth on 42 points, so are safe and with a trophy already in the cabinet, we can only hope that they continue to play with their foot of the gas.
After Thursday night Benitez will again induce his rotation policy, meaning that Terry, Lampard and Torres are likely to drop to the bench. Ba will come in up top; also expect the return of Oscar, with Ramires likely to drop to a deeper role next to Mikel. Gary Cahill provides another option defensively as he returned to the bench on Thursday.
Three points are a must here, with Tottenham and Everton still to visit us, as well as a trip to Old Trafford, we have our work cut out to make the top four.
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