Stamford Bridge, England
March 16, 2010
Ever since the draw for the Champions League round of sixteen was made, one fixture stood out from the rest. It was the clash between Chelsea and Internazionale Milano, which guaranteed Jose Mourinho’s return to Stamford Bridge on the 16th of March. The day has arrived; Mourinho’s Inter will come to England with the fixture almost evenly poised after the Italian team’s 2-1 win over Chelsea at San Siro in the first leg. The pressure will be immense on both managers, as they were both appointed to win the same trophy – UEFA Champions League. Inter is the last flag bearer of Italy left in the competition after Carlo Ancelotti’s previous team was ruthlessly shown the door by Manchester United, and they will be yearning to replicate their league success in Europe. Chelsea has come excruciatingly close to lifting the trophy on more than one occasion, but it has continued to elude them.
After the 1st leg at San Siro, Chelsea has played three matches, all at home, wherein it was humbled by Manchester City 4-2, while it defeated Stoke and West Ham United. Jose Mourinho’s return will be overwhelming for the players, as well as the fans, but Carlo Ancelotti must ensure that it does not affect their game. Ancelotti will be keen to defeat Jose at his erstwhile fortress and finally facilitate Chelsea’s emergence from the shadows of The Special One.
Injury update: Petr Cech, Henrique Hilario, Ashley Cole, Deco, Jose Bosinwa and Michael Essien are unavailable for this all important fixture. Yuri Zhirkov has returned from injury and is expected start at left-back. Ricardo Carvalho has regained fitness and will be available for selection.
Suspension update: No player is suspended. Soloman Kalou will miss the next match if booked.
Squad update: Zhirkov’s return will allow Malouda, who is going through his best spell as a Chelsea player, to play further up-field. Ross Turnbull, after a confidence-boosting display against the Hammers, will be the custodian for Chelsea.
Predicted Line-up: Carvalho’s availability has put Ancelotti in a dilemma – he has to choose between the inconsistent Portuguese or Alex. After the City game, Alex has partnered John Terry in the centre of defence and Chelsea has regained the lost stability. The diamond formation will not be used in the absence of Michael Essien and Ashley Cole, and Chelsea will play in the following ‘Christmas Tree’ formation.
Ivanovic Alex Terry Zhirkov
From Chelsea’s corner: The Blues got the all important away goal in Italy, and will have to go into the match with a plan in place to score one or two early goals, defend with discipline and try to score on the counter. Getting a goal early is important to put pressure on Inter, and Ancelotti will depend on his main man Didier Drogba, to put the ball in the back of the net. Mikel will have a crucial role to play – keeping Wesley Sneijder in check. Alex, if he plays, will have to deal with the dangerous Milito.
Inter couldn’t have had a worse preparation for this game. Whether it was fatigue or whether the players were mentally in London already, but a team about to play the biggest game of the season ended up suffering its worst defeat of the season. Jose Mourinho’s absence from the technical area was badly felt as Orialli failed to make proper substitutions. His return back in the conductors area will probably be the key.
Mourinho had made a statement that he doesn’t lose at Stamford Bridge, but Inter managed to create history by losing to Catania this weekend for the first time in 44 years.
Injury update: Christian Chivu is back and is playing with a protective helmet, just like the one worn by Cech. Santon is fit, but it is highly doubtful that Mourinho will throw either of them in the deep end in their comeback game.
Suspension update: The entire first choice backline of Maicon, Samuel, Lucio and Zanetti are just a yellow away from earning a suspension for next game.
Squad Update: Balotelli and Jose Mourinho had the latest of their innumerable feuds last week, leading to his absence from the squad facing Catania. However he is on the plane headed for London. He is most likely to start on the bench and will be brought on depending on the score line.
Predicted Line up: Leading 2-1, Mourinho surprised all of us by trying to go for the jugular and introducing Balotelli. Though it didn’t result in a goal, his pace caused lots of problems for Chelsea backline. Mourinho is expected to start with his first choice XI and introduce subs based on the situation.
Maicon Samuel Lucio Zanetti
Stankovic Cambiasso Mariga
From Inter Milan’s corner: This is a game between two teams having very similar strengths and weaknesses. They have extremely tight defenses capable of shutting out the best of opponents. The first goal will be the key to the entire game.
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