Chelsea v Rovers
Saturday 15th September 2007
Saturday`s evening kick off will see two teams clash with records at stake and credentials under the microscope.
Both teams will see this as a test of where they stand in terms of ability and where they will be challenging come the end of the season, something that is more pertinent to Chelsea because of their current injury problems.
There are a number of records that could be destroyed on Saturday with Chelsea`s 65 game unbeaten run at home the headline grabber. It is also significant to point out that Rovers are on an unbeaten run of their own, last losing to Chelsea in the FA Cup semi final in April. That run has now stretched to 14 games. Finally there is the small matter of Chelsea`s white-wash over Rovers last season; four wins in total, dumping us out of both domestic cups in the process.
However, both clubs are different animals this season and Chelsea`s chief carnivores, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba, could be absent.
It is an intriguing time for Chelsea as they lost their last game away at Martin O` Neil`s improving Aston Villa side and with their chief goal threats neutralised, it might be hard to see them striking back.
Many say that a when an animal is wounded it is at its most dangerous; I think in this case, it is more vulnerable. The claws are retracted and all that remains is a strong defensive. On a day when records a plenty could be broken, I feel it will be Chelsea that suffer.
Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho: 'Sheva is selected and he will have minutes on Saturday. It's good to have him back. We need everybody. We need to rotate players. Shevchenko played two matches for his national team. I saw the matches and especially in the second one, I was happy with the way he performed.'
Ashley Cole on Rovers` threat: " They're a good team. They have added good strikers, and have McCarthy too, and of course Bentley is doing well. They have a good team and always give us a battle. We have to get over the Villa game and win this one so we'll be up for it."
Hughes on Chelsea's 65-game unbeaten home record: 'The way we are playing at the moment, if anybody can possibly test Chelsea it certainly could be us (who ends it).
'We're playing with a lot of confidence, a lot of ability and a real threat at the opposition goal. You have to be confident when you go to places like Chelsea. It is a big ask, because they have a fantastic home record, but it's there to be broken.'
Chelsea Team News:
The notable absentees for Chelsea include Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba. Both have a fetish for scoring against Rovers, Lampard racking up seven past us in recent years. Also missing is Wayne Bridge.
The Ukranian superstar and criminally under-used Andriy Shevchenko will replace Didier Drogba.
There were no injury problems from the internationals for Jose Mourinho to worry about.
Chelsea from: Cech, Cudicini, Hilario, Ferreira, Belletti, A Cole, Ben Haim, Terry, Carvalho, Essien, Mikel, J Cole, Malouda, Sidwell, Pizarro, Drogba, Shevchenko, Kalou, Wright-Phillips, Lampard.
Player to watch: Andriy Shevchenko
He may be criminally under-valued by his manager but there is no doubting his ability. Given the ball in the right areas and he will score. It is imperative that he isn`t afforded much time and space, allowing him to put in a heroes display.
He has lost a little pace in his advancing years but he is a world renowned goal-scorer and that is something that never goes. He is normally deployed in wide roles which would explain his disappointing form last year but on Saturday he will have the central position.
Blackburn Rovers Team News:
Mark Hughes has no injury worries to concern himself with; in fact there is the added bonus that Steven Reid could make the squad. He was of course the last person to score against Chelsea when Rovers beat them.
There were slight worries over Benni McCarthy, Aaron Mokoena and Roque Santa Cruz who returned late from international duty.
Rovers from: Friedel, Enckelman, Emerton, Samba, Nelsen, Ooijer, Warnock, Bentley, Dunn, Savage, Pedersen, Santa Cruz, McCarthy, Derbyshire, Roberts, Tugay, Mokoena, Rigters, Khizanishvili.
Player to watch: Benni McCarthy
He didn`t really perform against his former manager last season so he will be hoping for a different display on Saturday. He buried his first league goal of the season last time out against Manchester City and despite something of a lethargic start his smile has returned and Benni is ready to do some damage. His partnership with Santa Cruz also seems to be flourishing and I fancy they could have too much for John Terry and co at the back today.
Match Facts & Stats
Mark Hughes celebrates three full years in charge on Saturday. He has taken the club along way since his opening 1-0 win against Portsmouth, courtesy of a Matt Jansen goal.
Chelsea have not suffered back-to-back defeats in 43 Premier League outings since the 2 and 7 May 2006, away to Blackburn and Newcastle respectively.
The Londoners are chasing their 1,500th League win, to extend their record-breaking unbeaten home run to 66 league games.
This is currently Chelsea`s worst start to a season in five years.
Rovers have scored in each of their last 22 Premier League games.
Rovers are one of only four sides still unbeaten in the league this season.
Sound referee Howard Webb will officiate this game. In his three games to date he has issued a miserly eight yellow cards and no reds.
Inevitably, this will be a tough game and will be one by a single clear goal. However, that isn`t to say there won`t be goals. Hughes will send his troops out to attack and with renewed confidence following the start to the season and the firepower available. The story couldn`t be more different for Chelsea. They have ploddered along so far this season and have been restricted for goals by the loss of Lampard and Drogba. Rovers` physical presence could, for once be too much for Mourinho`s aggressive side. Rovers to win a thriller and take all this week`s headlines. 3-2.
Rovers are in Europe, proper, on Thursday against Larissa.