Chelsea travel to Ewood Park for today’s lunchtime kick-off which sees us take on Paul Ince’s draw specialists. It’s Luiz Felipe Scolari’s 60th birthday and the Chelsea boss will no doubt be hoping that the unusually high scoring Chelsea going up against the Premier League’s weakest defence means there’ll be many happy returns.
Blackburn manager has been very complimentary about Chelsea in the run up to the game although isn’t planning any gifts for Scolari, stating “We are under no illusions. Technically they are better players than us, they are world-class players, but we can’t afford to be in fear of them. If we work as hard as we can and get a little bit of luck and by playing our football, who knows? We’ll have a go at them, that’s for sure.”
Chelsea’s assistant coach Ray Wilkins meanwhile, remains pretty optimistic even in the wake of a pretty dour night in Europe. Wilkins says “We spoke about what went wrong in Rome, and the lads know what went wrong. It has got to be forgotten, as the Liverpool game was. Someone will beat every team every now and then, and it is how you react to it. As far as the ambience goes, though, it has been spot on – and we are ready. We know how Blackburn have been playing. But they have a couple of injuries, as every team has at the moment, and it will be difficult to know how they are going to play. They have some good footballers – we don’t know if Roque Santa Cruz is going to be fit and we don’t know if they will play two in attack – so we just have to look after what we are going to do. If we do that well, it will be a difficult afternoon for Blackburn. We’ll prime the players on everything that we think can happen – and then when they cross the white line, it is up to them.”
On the injury front, Blackburn’s Brett Emerton (hamstring) is out, Vince Grella (hamstring) and Roque Santa Cruz (calf) are doubtful, whilst Benni McCarthy misses the game through suspension.
For Chelsea, Ricardo Carvalho (hamstring), Ashley Cole (calf), Michael Ballack (foot) and Michael Essien (knee) all remain absent.
BLACKBURN – If Roque Santa Cruz doesn’t make it back for this one, then it could be up to JASON ROBERTS to settle an old score with the club who rejected him as a teenager.
CHELSEA – With Deco struggling to regain his form and this having a possible impact on Lampard’s game, I’ll go for JOE COLE to shine in this one (which, knowing my predictions probably means he’ll be stretchered off in the first half). Joe Cole will be playing the day after his 27th birthday and with Deco lacking his usual sharpness, Chelsea will be relying on Cole to provide the creativity here.
Blackburn will be looking for their first win in six Premier League games, having taken just 3 points out of the last 15 available. Blackburn’s only home win in the Premier League came against Fulham in September – a game that also saw their only clean sheet in 11 home games in the league. Blackburn haven’t beaten any of the ‘big four’ in 13 games and Chelsea were one of four clubs to beat them at home last season. Blackburn go into the game in 13th place in the Premier League.
Chelsea have lost only one game in the Premier League this season, a game which saw their only defeat in 32 league games. Chelsea are on the longest current run of 19 games in the Premier League since conceding more than a single goal and they’ve scored 8 in their last two Premier League games. Chelsea are the only league club in all four divisions not to have conceded in a second half. They’ve won all five away games this season and remain unbeaten in an unmatched 15 Premier League away games. Chelsea go into this game 2nd in the Premier League.
HEAD TO HEAD
Chelsea are unbeaten in six league and cup games against Blackburn, with Blackburn scoring just one goal in those meetings. Chelsea have lost only once in their last eight trips to Ewood Park in the Premier League. Hopefully Chelsea’s first league meeting with Blackburn won’t have the same outcome as last seasons, since this ended in a 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge and turned out to be Jose Mourinho’s last game in charge for the club. Chelsea currently have twice as many points as Blackburn and go into this one looking to maintain their unbeaten away record this calendar year.
Home and Away
League (inc PL): Blackburn 32 wins, Chelsea 36 wins, Draws 26
Prem: Blackburn 11 wins, Chelsea 9 wins, Draws 8
At Blackburn Only
League (inc PL): Blackburn 20 wins, Chelsea 13 wins, Draws 14
Prem: Blackburn 6 wins, Chelsea 6 wins, Draws 2
Blackburn 0-1 Chelsea
Chelsea scorer: Joe Cole, 22
23 December 2007 – Ref: Steve Bennett
Chelsea may well be unbeaten in six against Blackburn, however, at Ewood Park things are pretty square with 6 games apiece and 2 draws. This reflects just how much of a battle these games against Blackburn can be and I don’t see this one being any different. Chelsea could go either way after their ridiculously poor night in Europe and I’m sure Blackburn will be prepared for a backlash. If they decide to go in hard and break up Chelsea’s play, we could see a frustrated performance with very little reward in terms of entertainment. However, if John Terry has managed to lift the lads and they’ve got their heads together again, it could be Blackburn who are in for a tough time.
BLACKBURN (from): Robinson, Simpson, Samba, Nelsen, Ooijer, Tugay, Warnock, Villanueva, Roberts, Fowler, Derbyshire, Pedersen, Olsson, Andrews, Brown, Khizanishvili, Treacy, Santa Cruz?
CHELSEA (from): Cech, Cudicini, Hilario, Alex, Terry, Ivanovic, Ferreira, Bridge, Bosingwa, Mikel, Mineiro, Lampard, Deco, Belletti, Malouda, J Cole, Kalou, Drogba, Anelka, Stoch
Chris Foy (Merseyside)