Reebok Stadium, Bolton, Greater Manchester
October 2, 2011; 12:30 GMT
This weekend, Andre Villas-Boas will lead his troops to Greater Manchester to take on a Bolton Wanderers side, which has lost its last five games and is presently at the bottom of the table, with three points from six games. The two managers, Villas-Boas and Coyle, know each other very well as back in the day, they had done their coaching badges together from Scotland’s National Sports Centre at Largs.
In the last three games in all competition, Chelsea have won two and drawn their last game against Valencia in midweek. The team showed tremendous grit against Fulham in the Carling Cup, winning on penalties despite playing most of the game with 10 men. Faced with a similar situation, they had no problems dispatching Swansea 4-1 in the last league game after Fernando Torres was sent off in the first half. The West London club is presently three points behind the two leaders from Manchester, and can’t really afford to drop points this weekend, especially considering the form Bolton are in.
Bolton, on the other hand, have lost five consecutive games after recording an opening-day victory against Queens Park Rangers. Four of those defeats have come against Man City, Liverpool, Man United and Arsenal – the opening six fixtures couldn’t have been any tougher for Owen Coyle. Now, he has to welcome Chelsea at the Reebok, in a fixture wherein the Trotters have lost their last eight games, without scoring.
Team News and Tactical Brief
The injury-list at Bolton looks long and painful. Stuart Holden (knee), Chung-Yong Lee (leg), Tyrone Mears (leg), Marcos Alonso (foot), Sean Davis, and Sam Ricketts (achilles) are all unavailable for one injury or other. Jussi Jaaskelainen is also doubtful, after picking up a knock in the game against Arsenal. Add to that, Ivan Klasnic and David Wheater are both suspended, while Gael Kakuta can’t take the field against his mother club.
Coyle will set his team up in a 4-4-2 formation, in two banks of four. The defense, which has looked very shaky this season, will comprise of Steinsson, Knight, Cahill, and Robinson. The central midfield will be marshaled by Muamba and Reo-Coker, who will look to rein in the three-man midfield of Chelsea. David Ngog and Kevin Davies will be flanked by Petrov and Eagles, on the left and right wing, respectively.
Villas-Boas’ Chelsea have looked to play the game at a faster tempo this season – they move the ball quicker, and look to feed the center forward directly from central midfield, in addition to the wings. However, with Torres out with suspension, and Drogba expected to return to the starting line-up, there’s a possibility that The Blues are caught between their two avatars – one that was custom made for Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard to thrive over the years and one that has been evolving this season to suit Fernando Torres and Juan Mata. If the new Chelsea fails to gel with the old components, Bolton can hit them. Also, in addition to playing a high back-line, Chelsea have looked susceptible on the flanks, especially on Jose Bosingwa’s side; ergo, Bolton will try to capitalize on any chinks in the opposition armor.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-4-2): Jaaskelainen; Steinsson, Knight, Cahill, Robinson; Muamba, Reo-Coker, Petrov, Eagles; Ngog, Davies
Other than Henrique Hilario, who’s yet to fully recover from hip and back muscle injuries, and Michael Essien, Chelsea have no new injury concerns. Fernando Torres will begin his three-match ban with this fixture, but Didier Drogba and Daniel Sturridge have regained full fitness and will be yearning to return to the starting line-up.
A lot has been written about Frank Lampard in the last few days, on how his Chelsea and England career is all but finished. However, the English stalwart, who has 172 Chelsea goals to his name, showed against Valencia that the fire still rages in his belly, and he is far from throwing in the towel. Meireles started from the bench in the last game, so should ideally start at the Reebok, along with Lampard and tireless Ramires in a midfield triangle. In defense, Bosingwa, Invanovic, Terry and Cole will take their places, especially with David Luiz playing the full game in Spain. Didier Drogba looks likely to lead the Chelsea attack, with Juan Mata and one of Sturridge or Anelka flanking him.
Chelsea have played their most fluent game with Meireles playing just behind Lampard and Ramires in midfield, and Mata drifting in from the left wing to support the center-forward. The Chelsea midfielders will look to dominate the two-man Bolton midfield and hog the possession, as they have done thus far in the season. At the Reebok, Villas-Boas will deploy a 4-3-3 system from the start, but it wouldn’t be a problem for him to change the system to either 4-2-3-1 or 4-4-2, considering the versatility of Mata, Anelka and Sturridge to play in more than one position. Malouda plays his best game when he takes the field with Drogba leading the line, so the Frenchman can be expected to come on at some stage in the game.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-3-3): Cech; Bosingwa, Ivanovic, Terry, Cole; Meireles, Ramires, Lampard; Mata, Sturridge, Drogba
- This season, Bolton have the worst defensive record in the league, conceding 16 goals in 6 games.
- Chelsea have scored 18 goals and conceded none in the last eight trips to the Reebok Stadium.
- Chelsea have just one clean-sheet this season, which came in the opening game against Stoke City, and have won just one of their last five away games.
(Facts courtesy BBC Sport.)
TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR
Didier Drogba (Chelsea)
The Drog is back, and is expected to start for the first time since the horrific fall in the game against Norwich City. Torres’ suspension has presented him with a chance to show his manager that he still has a lot to offer, despite Fernando close to recapturing his old form. In the past, any sense of competition has brought the best out of the Ivorian, and today, a competition is what he has on his hands.
Bolton Wanderers 1-2 Chelsea
Chelsea have a tendency to concede goals, but at the same time, have enough fire-power to claim three points against a struggling Bolton Wanderers side. With United and City already three points ahead of them, Villas-Boas will not want to see the gap widened this weekend.