Date:Wednesday January 31 2007
31st January 2007
After the leisurely kick-about at Saturday lunch-time Rovers come face to face with a team wounded by results and adverse talk about inner turmoil, which ultimately means it will be a tough evening ahead.
Rovers are still to pick up a point in London this season after another under-par display against lowly opposition. The defeat against Watford last Tuesday came as a surprise to many but it should have been envisaged as Rovers seem incapable of taking advantage of struggling sides.
It is a completely different story on Wednesday as Rovers face reigning Champions Chelsea, who have already enjoyed consecutive 2-0 victories over Rovers this season.
Chelsea have stuttered of late due to the 'injury crisis` that has ruled out their star man John Terry. This has raised notions of a one-man team, incapable of competing sufficiently without their captain. However, convincing victories against League One and Two opposition has raised the clouds of gloom.
With both sides missing key players it will be a game for the taking. Rovers are due some luck in London and this could be the night.
Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard on Andriy Shevchenko: "There was so much stuff spoken about Sheva, and it was unfair - because a lot of it comes from the outside. It is nothing to do with him.
"He is a world-class player and has shown that for so many years. He just wants to score goals - and he's done that for the last couple of games.
"Let's hope he continues, because we need strikers who can score goals. Andriy and Didier Drogba are two of the best, and we need them firing."
Mark Hughes on Chelsea: "Injuries to John Terry and Petr Cech have obviously affected their balance and flow but they have still been able to win a significant amount of matches. Even though some people are trying to say it is a crisis they are still a quality side, even when maybe they are not playing up to the level they have attained before.
"We know we will have to produce to the level we are capable of, and if we do that we have a good opportunity. We have to ask questions of them and cannot allow a team like Chelsea to attack at will."
This game comes too soon for John Terry who is expected to return against Charlton. Arjen Robben is also likely to be missing due to an ankle injury however, Michael Ballack and Claude Makelele are set to return.
Petr Cech will continue in goal supported by his face guard.
Chelsea squad: Hilario, Cech, Cudicini, Ferreira, Geremi, Carvalho, Essien, Bridge, A Cole, Lampard, Drogba, Diarra, Mikel, Shevchenko, Wright-Phillips, Kalou, Woods, Ballack, Morais.
Despite what everyone may say the boy is still world class and has found goals easier to come by recently which will have lifted his confidence. He is a player who thrives on confidence and he will be flying after finding the net against Wycombe and Nottingham Forest. However, he will be eager to score a Premiership goal as he has found these particularly hard to come by, unlike his strike partner, Didier Drogba.
His pace against Rovers` defence will cause plenty of problems for Hughes.
Ryan Nelsen is set to start his first Premiership match of the season after featuring for 70 minutes against Luton at the weekend. David Dunn is not fit enough for the standard Rovers expect so he isn`t included.
Bruno Berner is in the squad having recently signed from Basel. He is joined by Tugay who has recovered from the hamstring strain that kept him out of the Luton tie. Jason Roberts is still not quite ready for a return.
Rovers squad: Friedel, Henchoz, Khizanishvili, Emerton, Warnock, Bentley, Pedersen, Mokoena, Tugay, Nelsen, Derbyshire, McCarthy, Nonda, Samba, Brown, Berner, Gallagher, Peter.
After an exceptional return in the F A Cup, Nelsen appears to be back in business. His command of the back-line, determination and reading of the game are going to be vital if Rovers are to mount a push up the Premiership table.
This will be a tough test for him against Chelsea`s physical and rapid attack but with Warnock providing the pace Nelsen can lead his troops in a phalanx style defence that will make it incredibly hard for Chelsea to break down.
Click here to view the highlights of Rovers last league encounter with Chelsea.
Rovers are looking for the 200th victory of their Premiership history.
Rovers have won only one of their last six Premiership visits to Stamford Bridge. They were victorious by the odd goal in three on 22 February 2003 when Dwight Yorke and David Dunn scored their goals.
Chelsea have not lost a home Premiership game under Jose Mourinho (won 40, drawn 10), nor been defeated in the top division at the Bridge since a 1-2 reverse to Arsenal on 21 February 2004 (won 44, drawn 12). They are just eight games from beating Liverpool`s unbeaten home record of 63 games.
This could be Brett Emerton`s 100th start for Rovers.
Graeme 'the Clown` Poll is the referee for this game. He has taken charge of two Rovers games this season; the away wind against Middlesbrough and Reading. He has issued 3 reds and 77 yellows in his 19 games this season.
Chelsea are still very much there for the taking. If Rovers play their open attacking football that they did at the Emirates against Arsenal then I feel they will have greater reward. Chelsea have been grinding out results but have still looked vulnerable at the back and with Rovers producing goals all over the park for fun at the moment then this should be a high scoring contest. Chelsea are due a defeat at home and Rovers, who have had little in the way of luck against the Blues, will be looking to end the home sides impressive Stamford Bridge record. However, it will be tough to go all out for the win. I see this one ending all square, perhaps 2-2.
Sheff Utd at Ewood Park on Saturday
Date:Wednesday January 31 2007
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