Filed: Thursday, 16th November 2006
By: Matthew Coker
We return to London this weekend for our second consecutive Saturday 3pm kick as we travel West, to Stamford Bridge, to take on the Champions, Chelsea on a quest for Premiership survival.
As you would expect, the 2nd place team are in buoyant form. Although they have tasted famous defeats at Shite Hart Lane and the Riverside, their other awaydays have seen them take maximum points at Ewood Park, Craven Cottage, the Madejski and Bramall Lane.
More of a concern to us is their home form where they have beaten Man City, Charlton, Liverpool, Portsmouth and Watford and where only Aston Villa have managed to stop them winning, by holding them to a 1-1 draw. Very recent form has also been good; their last two games have seen 4-0 victories (in the Carling Cup against Villa and the league with Watford). Just for good measure, they also top their Champions League group with a notable 4 points taken from two encounters with the European Champions.
Jose does a sober impression of Delia to Chelsea’s twelfth man.
The gaffer is the Portuguese man of war, Jose Mourinho, who is his usual effervescent self. He is never happier than when he gets the chance to wax lyrical on how wonderful he or his team are and is equally scathing on nearly any other subject in football, most notably in the past, Arsene Wenger and his pet hate, referees. This week has seen him turn his attention to the Stamford Bridge faithful as he bemoans the lack of atmosphere generated. You can rest assured that there will be plenty of songs about the blue flag this weekend, Jose.
The first choice keeper, Petr Cech, is unavailable for this fixture having suffered a fractured skull in the game with Reading. As is the case at Chelsea, a world class back up was available in the form of Italian, Carlo Cudicini, who has recently recovered from his Reading experience to place his goalie bag in the net. Even in the absence of Carlo, the third choice keeper, Portuguese laughing boy, Henrique Hilario put in a number of top class performances, most notably in the Champions League.
The back four should see Geremi start on the right, with England skipper, John Terry and Portuguese international, Richardo Carvalho in the middle and our national team’s full back, Ashley Cole on the left. Cole has started to settle down to some good performances after his much protracted move across London. There is still some debate amongst Blues fans about whether or not Wayne Bridge should be been dropped so suddenly after a sterling start to the campaign but Jose seems to make his mind up on certain players and young Cashley appears to have the gaffer’s backing. Impressive summer signing, Khalid Boulahrouz, may also be considered.
After last season’s sudoko inspired formations of 4-5-1 or 4-3-3, Chelsea seem to have favoured a 4-4-2 approach this season. The midfield is still fairly central and they start with a diamond formation without any natural wingers as a rule, though both Cole and Geremi are more than happy to bomb forward with the latter providing crosses for a number of goals in the last couple of games.
Playing in front of the back four is the Frenchman, Claude Makele, who acts as the protector for the defensive line with his perfectly timed tackles and classy distribution. In front of him will usually be Big Fat Franky Lampard, Michael Essien and the German captain, Michael Ballack.
Old Manboobs seemed to have been sussed out at the end of last season when he looked out of sorts, form that continued into a pitiful showing at the World Cup and media criticism of his post Germany England performances. The Chelsea fans feel that his form is starting to come back, though one flukey goal at the Nou Camp and a few converted penalties are hardly the stuff of legends.
No doubt, we will be slated for booing a former West Ham academy product and our dislike put down to the fact that he defected to a London rival. However, it is his inability to keep quiet that has caused most of the animosity. As an example, his predictably tabloid whoring misrepresentation of West Ham fans and the supportive applause that he received when leaving the field with a broken leg in his “Totally Wank” autobiography are typical of the attention courting techniques that he likes to use for shameless self promotion. No doubt we’ll hear more from him before Saturday.
Essien has been the shining star of the midfield and has been putting in lung busting performances all season. He is quick and strong and possesses an all round game that sees him able to provide bite in defence and drive in going forward. The only slight shortfall in his game is a lack of shooting ability, though he contributes enough without scoring.
Ballack has taken a while to adjust to British football but the performances are starting to come. The German international should be truly considered a gallactico, he is one of the most two footed players in the world, is extremely versatile in his play (he has won defensive midfielder and attacking midfielder of the year in the Bundesliga), his height, particularly noticeable in Chelsea’s generally short arse middle row, means he can operate almost as a conventional centre forward when pushing up and he possesses excellent touch and technique.
The wingers at the club have been the victim of Ballack’s introduction. The most notable contribution from out wide this season has come from Dutchman, Arjen Robben who has been in decent form and would probably be first choice on most other teamsheets in the world. He has managed 10 starts this campaign, where Jose has, on occasion, gone for a 4-3-3, with Robben and Sheva generally providing the width up front. Joe Cole missed early parts of the season and as a result has only begun to get a run out recently, mainly from the bench. SWP is almost yesterday’s news.
The Thinking Fan’s Guide to the World Cup by Matt Weiland & Sean Wilsey (Cote d’Ivorie chapter by Paul Laity) describes the night the Ivory Coast qualified for Germany 2006.
It is ironic that the Ivory Coast chose to honour Didier with a beer, as he often looks like a man that has enjoyed a few beers prior to a game. What other possible explanation could you give for his inability to stand up properly? For a player with such an imposing physique, he seems to go down more often than Jemma Jameson. Nevertheless, his pace, power and finishing have netted him an incredible 14 goals in 17 games, including two hat tricks, this season which must surely make him Europe’s most in-form striker at the moment.
His partner is the former European Footballer of the Year, Andriy Shevchenko who joined from AC Milan in the summer. He had a relatively slow start and with seemingly the whole world watching his every attacking move, the man who topped the Serie A scoring charts more than one, seemed to struggle to break his duck. He managed to win the fans over with a very commendable work rate during this barren spell and he has now registered 5 goals altogether, 3 in the last 3 games, suggesting he is starting to get the hang of it. The Milan Sheva had the lot in terms of speed, skill and an acutely clinical eye for goal from nearly anywhere on the field and if he can reproduce even a fraction of his past form, he will establish himself as one of the Premiership’s finest.
Saloman Kalou provides an alternative up front, though usurping £24m and £30m strikers has proved something of a challenge for the young Ivory Coast starlet. He has become a regular feature coming off the bench and has impressed the faithful who have earmarked him as a future prospect.
You will always pass the test, As long as you keep your head to the sky
You can win…….”
Optimistic – Sounds of Blackness (for whoever is in charge of the away dressing room boom box).
I am in a similar position to many of you in that I won’t be making the trip West this weekend. The £48 price tag coupled with the awful view and the 90% chance that we will get hammered render it poor value for money even before you take into account the number of days to Christmas. At the moment, I’m convinced that is the right choice but come 2pm on Saturday, I’m sure that I will have changed my mind.
For this is the London derby that captures total rivalry in a nutshell as it pits together two clubs that stand for complete opposites in many respects. It is West End girls v East End boys, new money vs old fashioned principles, top price Johnny foreigner transfers v home-grown talent and a victory in this one would be as sweet tasting as they come.
However the chances of this happening are slim, somewhere between 9/1 and 17.5/1 (Mansion, by the way) if you believe the turf accountants and they are seldom wrong. If Chelsea’s first eleven has not convinced you that we are up against it, then consider we are playing a team that International players such as Paolo Ferreria and Wayne Bridge as well as £16m signing, John Obi Mikel couldn’t even warm the bench for last weekend.
I’ll expect a repeat of both last season’s games when they won by comfortable scorelines (3-1 and 4-1) and with the lion’s share of possession. I’m going to have to put us down for a 3-0 defeat as I can’t see it going any other way.
Enjoy the game.
Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.
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