Bolton v Chelsea Preview: Champions Yearning For An Away Win




Reebok Stadium, Bolton
January 25, 2011, 01:25 PM – LIVE! on ESPN


Carlo Ancelotti will take his team to the Reebok Stadium, with an aim to end the miserable run away from home, which has seen the Blues lose four of their last six away games, without a win to show for their effort or the lack of it. Chelsea desperately needs an away win to regain their lost confidence, and considering the record Chelsea has at this ground, the players could not have picked a better venue for their reincarnation. The reigning champions have won 11 and drawn 3 of the last 14 meetings between the two clubs, while are unbeaten at the Reebok in 13 years.

After a bright start to the season, Owen Coyle’s team is yet to win a game after losing to Chelsea 1-0 at the Bridge. However, club legend Nat Lofthouse passed away recently and The Trotters are looking at this game to pay a tribute to a man who scored 285 goals for them. Carlo can expect a boisterous crowd and an inspired show from the home team, which has a potential to make this visit drastically different to what The Blues may have got accustomed to of late, in the last few years.

Chelsea may again be without their midfield talisman against Bolton

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The home team has signed David Wheater from Middlesbrough for an undisclosed fee, and the signing is expected to put pressure on the partnership of Gary Cahill and Zat Knight in the heart of defence, but the established pair is expected to retain their place in the first team for this encounter.

Bolton have a couple of injury concerns, as Klasnic and Steinsson are yet to completely recover from their respective injuries, while Owen Coyle will be without Gardner, Samuel, O’Brien, Lee (on international duty) and Davis.

The Trotters will line-up in a 4-4-2 formation, with two physical forwards in the form of Kevin Davies and Elmander. This team draws its strengths from the discipline they maintain for majority of the game. Their major game plan revolves around involving their two front men into the game as much as possible, by delivering crosses and by capitalising on lose clearances (second balls) from the opposition. Terry is suffering from a back problem, and if the Chelsea captain misses this game, the prospect of Bruma lining up alongside Branislav Ivanovic would indeed be tempting for Davies.

Probable Starting Line-up: Jaaskelainen, Ricketts, Cahill, Knight, Robinson, Moreno, Muamba, Holden, Taylor, Davies, Elmander.


Amidst a plethora of rumours floating around – from Luiz to Kjaer and from Sanchez to Ageuro – Chelsea have to keep all distractions aside, and Carlo has to utilise the resources presently at his disposal, and not dwell too much over likely recruitments, despite the media desperately trying to get answers out of him. He is an experienced campaigners and has dealt with such things for a decade now, so ensuring this shouldn’t be a problem. The problem would be the absence of Lampard and Terry, if the twin-towers fail to shake off their knocks in time.

However, John Terry has come out and confirmed his availability for the trip to the Reebok, while Lampard remains doubtful. Mikel has recovered from the knee injury which had kept him out of games after the loss at the Emirates, and may play a part on Monday night. Alex, Benayoun, and Zhirkov are still sidelined.

Although the Blues have won their last two games in all competitions, the first win, against Ipswich in the FA Cup, featured players such as Sturridge and McEachran who had aided in the fluent movement on the pitch, while the second win was not as easy as the 2-0 scoreline may lead one to believe. Carlo didn’t adhere to his claim of fielding players on the basis of their present form rather than their names, and wrongly didn’t use the impressive youngsters as much as he should have. As a result, the Chelsea front-line again looked jaded and out of sorts. Drogba missed a couple of one-on-one opportunities, while Malouda was woeful on the pitch and resembled none other than himself, before Hiddink performed had his famous magic trick. The brightest lights were a confident looking Ramires, who powered his team on by his limitless energy throughout the game, and Ivanovic.  The Serbian defender not only came to his team’s rescue offensively, but was also rock-solid at the back. By his work-rate and commitment to the team, he has endeared himself to the fans, and is on the verge of signing a new contract.

A Premiership start is long due for Sturridge, and he will get it sooner rather than later. If Lampard fails to recover on time, the manager would be reluctant to field Ramires, Essien, and Mikel in the central midfield for the obvious lack of creativity in this selection. After a solid show in the FA Youth Cup against Arsenal, McEachran would be yearning to join the big boys, but the question remains – would Carlo Ancelotti play him?

Probable Starting Line-up: Cech, Bosingwa, Ivanovic, Terry, Cole, Essien, Ramires, Lampard, Sturridge, Drogba, Anelka.

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Probable starting line-ups


Ramires (Chelsea): The £18m summer signing has drawn a lot of criticism ever since injuries to Benayoun, Lampard and Essien had thrown him into the Premiership, sooner than the manager or the player himself expected. His performances had been poor in the first half of the season, with an odd good game such as the one against Arsenal at Stamford Bridge being an anomaly. But, this can be expected, as a foreign midfielder takes at least a season to settle in this fast-paced tough-tackling English league. Gradually, as he has gauged this surroundings, he has improved and will be our player to watch for on Monday night. Against a physical and disciplined side like Bolton, he would have to be vigilant in the middle and also make his darting runs into the box. If Lampard misses out on this game, the Brazilian’s responsibility would only increase.

TheHardTackle’s PREDICTION

Bolton Wanderers 1-3 Chelsea FC

It’s about time Chelsea win an away game, if they are to sustain the little momentum they gained from the win against Blackburn. As rightly pointed out by Drogba, the Blues should first focus on winning 2-3 games consequently, before making any bigger plans.


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