Stamford Bridge, London
April 9, 2011; 7:30 pm, IST
Chelsea are set to resume their quest to finish in the top four, following a disastrous week. A week that saw Chelsea drop points against Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium, making them an overwhelming outsider to win the league from here onwards. To round off the week, Chelsea lost to Manchester United in the quarter final of the Champions League, denting their chance severely to stay alive in the continental competition. The stalemate against Stoke City pushed them back to fourth place in the league table. Good news for Chelsea is that, fifth placed Tottenham is five points behind them, thereby giving them enough breathing space.
Chelsea’s record against The Latics has been good in recent times. Since the inception of the Premier League, Chelsea have lost only once against them in 11 previous meetings, winning in nine of those encounters. In the last two encounters, Chelsea literally bombarded Wigan, scoring fourteen times and without conceding any. The rout include ace striker Anelka scoring four times in the last two meetings. Drogba and Kalou has had their share of goals as well, scoring three each in the last two games, making them an overwhelming favorites to win against the bottom placed club.
Roberto Martinez’s men have a huge task cut out to stay in the top tier of English football league. They are currently placed at the bottom of the league table. Last season in the same fixture, they conceded eight goals against the Blues. But the waning form of Chelsea has dispatched any possibility of a repetition of that goal fest. The Latics have scored only 11 times on the road. Despite all the negative vibes, good news for them is that six of their fellow strugglers in the league are only, at the most, three points ahead of them.
In their last league outing, Wigan held Tottenham, at the DW Stadium, helping them gather some confidence before coming to this match. Following their game against Chelsea, only one of their six remaining games will be against a team from the-top ten in the league table. On the flipside, five of those games will be away from home, making it quite tough for the Latics to stay up. A relegation battling side is always a dangerous opposition and Chelsea’s lackluster form can definitely make this encounter an exciting one.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Cup tied David Luiz could not take part in Chelsea’s midweek game against Manchester United. He will surely get back in to the side to face the Latics. Malouda is likely to replace Zhirkov, following an anonymous outing by the Russian in the midweek. Nicolas Anelka has always relished playing against Wigan and he may find his place back in the side at the expense of Chelsea’s most expensive signing – Fernando Torres. Drogba has been in good form and is likely to hold his place. Alex, who has returned after a knee surgery, is fit and will make it to the bench for tomorrow’s match. Essien may make way for Mikel.
Despite the loss in the midweek, 4-4-2 normal has been more productive for Chelsea and it is likely that Ancelotti will not tinker much with the tactics. The fullbacks will pair up with the wide midfielders to put pressure on the fullbacks of Wigan. Lampard will play creative part in a box to box roll and Mikel will play as the ball winning midfielder, occasionally accompanying Lampard up front.
Probable Starting XI (4-4-2): Cech, Ivanovic, Luiz, Terry, Cole, Malouda, Mikel, Lampard, Ramires, Anelka, Drogba.
Big news for Roberto Martinez’s team is that Latics skipper Gary Caldwell is back into the side following a clash with Spurs striker Roman Pavlyuchenko in last weekend’s 0-0 draw at the DW Stadium. Wigan will be able to field full team, as there are no major injury concerns or suspensions as such. Ex- Chelsea player, Franco Di Santo looks unlikely to start.
Martinez is expected to lineup a rigid 4-5-1 against Chelsea. Top scorer Hugo Rodallega, with seven league goals, is likely to play the lone striker’s role. He will be duly supported by N’Zogbia and Manchester United loanee Tom Cleverley. Their intent would be to sit back, force Chelsea to lose possession in the midfield by outnumbering them and to hit hard on counter.
Probable Starting XI (4-5-1): Al Habsi, Boyce, Alcaraz , Caldwell, Figueroa, McCarthy, Watson, Moses, N’Zogbia, Cleverley, Rodallega.
1. In this season Chelsea have conceded only 11 times at home. Wigan, on the other hand, have scored only 11 goals on the road.
2. Chelsea’s all-time record league win was the 8-0 against Wigan, in the same fixture last season.
TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR
Nicolas Anelka (Chelsea FC)
Anelka has always enjoyed playing against the Latics. In the last nine games, he has scored six times against them. Anelka came on as a substitute in their midweek loss against Manchester United but failed to impress. But his rich run of form against Wigan is unlikely to be overlooked. The veteran striker is expected to start in place of Torres, who is yet to break the duck.
Chelsea FC 2 – 0 Wigan Athletic FC
Wigan will defend in numbers and try to sit back and hit on the counter. Chelsea’s direct 4-4-2 tactics can, however, strike a balance between defense and attack, to keep a check on Wigan’s runs on the break. Of course, the present Chelsea side is nowhere near the Chelsea side that handed Wigan a 6-0 drubbing in the reverse fixture at the DW stadium. But Drogba, Kalou and Anelka have all had good goal scoring record against Wigan of late. So Chelsea are likely pick up another victory to leapfrog Manchester City to the third position in the tale.
TheHardTackle’s BLAST FROM THE PAST