Almost three weeks after our last home game, home comforts are back on the agenda this Saturday with Wolverhampton Wanderers visiting Stamford Bridge. Since the2-0 win against Arsenal on the first weekend of October – and the international break which followed – the Blues have been to Moscow and back via Birmingham, with a draw and a win against Aston Villa and Spartak Moscow respectively. Attempting to upset the homecoming are Mick McCarthy’s Wolves, currently languishing in 18th place in the Premier League, tied on six points with fellow relegation candidates West Ham United and Liverpool.
Wolves are in their perilous position having only won one of their opening eight league games this season. That victory came on the opening day of the season, as goals from David Jones and Steven Fletcher helped the Midlands side edge past Stoke City 2-1. Since then, it’s been somewhat of a struggle, with draws and defeats commonplace, particularly away from home where they currently boast the unenviable record of three consecutive losses.
A draw last weekend against West Ham will have buoyed Wolves slightly, but one point from what is already being dubbed a six-pointer won’t have McCarthy bouncing off the ceiling just yet. Wolves will also have to face off against Chelsea without several key players, including the classy Michael Mancienne, on-loan from the Blues and thus ineligible for selection. Ronald Zubar is the latest addition to the Wolves injury list, while Jody Craddock – a scorer against Chelsea in a 5-2 thriller back in March 2004 – Kevin Doyle and Adlene Guedioura will also miss out. McCarthy has hinted at playing three in the middle as a result of his thinning squad. Meanwhile, forward Sam Vokes celebrated his 21st birthday on Thursday, while apropos to nothing, Winston Bogarde turned on Friday.
Wolves have only scored three goals away from home so far this season. In contrast, Chelsea have managed fourteen in their four matches at Stamford Bridge.
Following the Russian round-trip in the week, Carlo Ancelotti may find himself counting the cost of the Champions League encounter against Spartak. Although the team handled the artificial pitch well – to the tune of a 2-0 win – the injuries seem to be mounting up at Chelsea, and while Yossi Benayoun, Alex and Frank Lampard will miss out against Wolves, expect more names to join them on the sidelines prior to the match. Didier Drogba should return after recovering from a fever, while Jose Bosingwa is also available for selection.
Defending a perfect home record this season, Chelsea’s recent record against Wolves hints at more of the same for the unstoppable Blues. Having not lost against Wolves since January 1983 – at Stamford Bridge, the record extends back to March 1979 – the previous five encounters have all resulted in Chelsea wins, with seventeen scored and just two conceded – both incidentally in the aforementioned 2004 league game.
Last season’s home match saw goals from Florent Malouda, Michael Essien – two – and Joe Cole dispatch Wolves 4-0, while the Molineux meeting back in February was all about Drogba, who netted twice without reply.
Gloucestershire referee Lee Probert will be officiating Chelsea for the first time this season, although he was the man in the middle for Wolves’ only win of the campaign against Stoke. He only travelled to Chelsea once last season too, in a 1-0 win against Bolton in which he booked Alex, as well as four players from the visiting side.
With Manchester United seemingly in turmoil and Manchester City and Arsenal keeping each other occupied this Sunday, our game on Saturday is a chance to put some distance between ourselves and the latter two at the top of the Premier League table. Mick McCarthy should have learned from mistakes he made at the Bridge last year, but the Blues will still be too powerful for his sturdy Wolves outfit.