Today sees Chelsea’s first competitive game since the Champions League defeat to Manchester United, at home to Portsmouth. As seems to be a fairly frequent event these days, it also marks the start of another ‘new era’ under yet another new manager.
With Didier Drogba still injured, Salomon Kalou at the Olympics, Andriy Shevchenko’s match fitness questionable, and Claudio Pizarro back on loan at Werder Bremen, we start the season with a bit of a striker crisis and Nicolas Anelka is expected to start up front on his own. The Frenchman certainly seemed to enjoy his pre-season games and according to Scolari has “looked good in training”, although psychologically he still needs a bit of work. Scolari suggests “he is quiet. If you say ‘good morning’ to him he will say ‘good morning’ back but if you don’t he won’t say anything.” And whilst I’m not really sure what all that is about, I definitely agree with Scolari that “we need to put fire in Anelka” this season.
Chelsea won’t be seeing players like Claude Makelele, Tal Ben Haim, Khalid Boulahrouz and Steve Sidwell who all departed in the summer although I’m sure our highly paid ‘world exclusive’ signing will work hard enough for all of them. A debut is expected for new signing Jose Bosingwa, whilst 19 year old Franco Di Santo could be named on the bench as back up for Anelka. Chelsea injuries include Didier Drogba, Andriy Shevchenko and Michael Essien, Deco is another possible absentee having sat out training Friday.
Last season’s FA Cup winners and this year’s Charity Shield losers, Portsmouth will be looking to improve on last year, which saw their most successful season in the Premier League to date. They’ve certainly had a busy summer in the transfer market, acquiring Glen Little, Ben Sahar, Peter Crouch, Omar Alieu and Younes Kaboul, although losing Sulley Muntari to Inter Milan.
Jermain Defoe and Peter Crouch could be the starting partnership up front (presumably with Kanu benched) whilst John Utaka and Papa Bouba Diop may both start in central midfield, with a start for Jerome Thomas a possibility following the departure of Pedro Mendes. Kaboul could start his debut on the bench as cover for Sol Campbell and Sylvain Distin and on the injury front, Harry Redknapp will be without Sean Davis, Glen Little, Noe Pamarot, David Nugent and Linvoy Primus.
Frank Lampard – despite spells out injured, finished last season Chelsea’s top scorer with 20 goals (10 PL). Always a threat and out to prove he’s worth the new contract maybe?
Jermain Defoe – needs a couple to reach 100 career league goals and always seems to do well against Chelsea.
Second place finish last season (88 points), 2 points behind the champions Manchester United. Chelsea have won their opening league fixture for the past six seasons, scoring three goals in their opening league games for the last two seasons. Chelsea are unbeaten in their last 21 league games, winning 15 and drawing 6, in fact, the 1-0 defeat away at Arsenal on 16 December 2007 was their only loss in 31 games. Chelsea currently have the best Premier League record in this calendar year (13 wins, 5 draws) and remain the only top flight club yet to lose a league game in 2008. Won 50 and drawn 18 of 68 games in all competitions at home (last defeat on 22 February 2006, 1-2 to Barcelona in the Champions League) and not lost a league game at Stamford Bridge since 21 February 2004 (1-2 defeat to Arsenal). Chelsea have kept 63 clean sheets in 114 Premier League games over the last 3 seasons and require only one more to total 250 in Premier League history.
Last season’s 8th place saw their highest in the Premier League with a points total of 57. From 6 attempts, Portsmouth are trying for their third winning start in the Premier League. Last season’s opening day draw to Derby (2-2) was the only time during the 2007/8 campaign for Pompey to drop points from a winning position. Portsmouth finished with four defeats last season, Manchester City (a), Blackburn (h), Middlesbrough (a) and Fulham (h), failing to score in the last three games of the campaign.
HEAD TO HEAD
Chelsea hold a 100% home record against Portsmouth in the Premier League, with Pompey dropping more points (29), losing more games (9) and conceding more goals (20) to Chelsea than any other side since gaining promotion in 2003. Portsmouth haven’t gone away from Stamford Bridge with a point since December 1988 (old Second Division) and haven’t taken all 3 points away for 53 years. More recently, the only points Chelsea have dropped to Portsmouth in 10 Premier League games was last season’s 1-1 draw at Fratton Park.
Home and Away
League (inc PL): Chelsea 29 wins, Portsmouth 19 wins, Draws 22
Prem: Chelsea 9 wins, Portsmouth 0, Draws 1
League (inl PL): Chelsea 17 wins, Portsmouth 6, Draws 12
Prem: Chelsea 5 wins, Portsmouth 0, Draws 0
Chelsea 1-0 Portsmouth
Chelsea scorer: Frank Lampard
25th August 2007 – Ref: Alan Wiley
Chelsea go into this game defending a 21-match unbeaten Premier League record and Pompey will no doubt be aiming to end our unbeaten home run which now stands at a phenomenal 82 games. The away side were unlucky not to get anything out of this fixture last season and no doubt Redknapp will set out to test Scolari in his first Premier League game in charge. Chelsea won’t get much space, so patience might be virtue. This game’s certainly not a formality in the fixture list – could be a tough start to the season for us.
CHELSEA (from): Cech, Cudicini, Bosingwa, Belletti, Terry, Carvalho, Alex, A Cole, J Cole, Lampard, Ballack, (Deco), Mikel, Anelka, Wright-Phillips, Malouda, Di Santo, (Shevchenko)
PORTSMOUTH (from): James, Johnson, Campbell, Distin, Hreidarsson, Utaka, Diop, Diarra, Kranjcar, Defoe, Crouch, Lauren, Cranie, Thomas, Traore, Kanu, Mvuemba, Wilson, Ashdown.
Mike Dean (Wirral)