After a seemingly endless and probably pointless international break it’s back to Premier League action this weekend, as Wolverhampton Wanderers make the trip to Stamford Bridge to battle against Chelsea’s walking wounded. Despite still riding the wave of euphoria following the Blues’ 1-0 win over Manchester United in our last league game, there are some injury worries to contend with ahead of the game on Saturday afternoon.
John Terry – the scorer of the only goal against United – leads the line of selection doubts with an Achilles injury, while Didier Drogba picked up his chest injury against the Red Devils and is still picking Jonny Evans’ studs out of his ribs. Frank Lampard was injured on – again, the pointless – international duty, while Michael Ballack and Ashley Cole are also fighting to be fit in time for the Wolves game. José Bosingwa is definitely out with a long-term knee problem.
Wolves also have their fair share of injury problems to contend with though. The eternally injured goalkeeper Matt Murray is – you guessed it – injured, and he is joined on the sidelines by Matt Hill, Chris Iwelumo, David Jones and Stephen Ward, while defender Kevin Foley could recover in time to be considered for selection. Michael Mancienne is ineligible due to the terms of his loan agreement. Neither side has any suspended players.
Newly-promoted Wolves are currently closer to a swift return to the Championship then they would have liked. They sit 19th in the Premier League table, three points clear of rock-bottom Portsmouth and still smarting from a 1-4 home defeat against Arsenal in their last game. They have not won a game since September 20th when goals from Kevin Doyle and David Edwards consigned Fulham to a 2-1 defeat, although in the seven games since that win Wolves have recorded draws against Aston Villa at home and Everton and Stoke City away.
Wolves have an identical home and away record after 12 games this season, having won one, drawn two and lost three with a goal difference of minus five both at Molineux and on their travels. They have scored two more goals away from home though, netting seven. Irish striker Doyle is their joint-top scorer with three goals, an accolade he shares with central defender Jody Craddock who also scored against us the last time the two sides met in any competition.
In late March 2004 – as we came to the climax of our first season under the Roman Abramovich experiment – we came up against a Wolves side who were playing in their debut Premier League season. Having fallen 0-5 against Chelsea in the Midlands earlier in the season, they were probably expecting more of the same when a fourth minute Mario Melchiot goal opened the scoring for Chelsea at the Bridge. However, Henri Camara equalised mid-way through the first-half and Wolves were able to hold Chelsea until well into the second period. Indeed, in the 57th minute Craddock put the away side 2-1 up.
As Chelsea fans moaned and groaned, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink was almost immediately thrown on for Geremi as the Blues searched for a way back into the game. It took until the 70th minute for Lampard to equalise, and then Jimmy came into his element, bagging his first seven minutes later to give Chelsea the lead. Ten minutes later, he had a second and the game was put to bed, but Jimmy was not finished there and completed his hat-trick in injury time to make the score 5-2.
The last time Wolves won at the Bridge was in a league game in March 1979, as they ran out 2-1 winners after we had won the reverse game at Molineux.
The only other newly-promoted side we have faced so far this season was Burnley, who we neatly dispatched 3-0 at home. Our imperious home form has so far yielded six wins from six, with sixteen goals scored and just the single concession coming on the opening weekend of the season in a 2-1 win over Hull City. Although we are slightly depleted, it will be far from a second-string side which takes the field on Saturday afternoon. The only aspect which could affect our performance is the shock of actually playing at 3pm on a Saturday!