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Cech returns ahead of vital game for Chelsea


By Joe Carroll.

Chelsea will aim to bounce back tonight after two games without a win when they visit doomed Portsmouth in the Premier League, with the return of Petr Cech providing a much needed boost for their title hopes. The Chelsea number 1 is expected to be named in Carlo Ancelotti’s starting IX in a game that the Blue’s must win if they are to realise their hopes of winning the championship.

Cech’s return to action will come as a relief to Ancelotti who has been without the Czech international for the last 5 games in which they have won just 2- the Italian will hope that the imposing keeper can put a halt to his teams stuttering form, a run that has seen them concede 7 goals in the presence of 2 different keepers. Although Chelsea’s usually stalwart defence has been leaking goals with increasing irregularity this season, the form of a fit Cech in the remaining league fixtures could prove vital. Before he limped off with a calf injury in the Champions League clash in Milan, Chelsea had lost only once in 16 games, a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Everton in February.

With Ashley Cole coming off in that game through injury, and revelations concerning John Terry’s personal life, the recent goalkeeper merry-go-round at Stamford Bridge was always going to cause further disruptions.  Whatever the reasons for Chelsea’s recent defensive frailties, the Blue’s find themselves in 3rd place in the Premier League, 4 points adrift of leaders Manchester United.  However with a game in hand, Ancelotti’s side will climb to within 1 point of top spot, leap-frogging 2nd placed Arsenal in the process, if they claim 3 points at Fratton Park tonight.

As for the future of Ancelotti, the Italian yesterday assured fans that even if he fails to bring home a trophy come May, he is confident he will remain at the helm past the end of the season.  After a run of disappointing results, speculation has been rife in the media, suggesting the former AC Milan boss could be heading for the exit.

With Chelsea’s recent managerial track record reading like a list of Katie Price’s ex partners, it would perhaps come as no surprise to fans to see Ancelotti given the boot.  However the man himself has made it clear that he at least, intends to honour a contract that runs until the summer of 2012.

“This is a delicate time for us because of injuries and the disappointment of going out of the Champions League, but we are still playing on two fronts (the Premier League and FA Cup).  I believe we will do well this year but regardless of results my future is definitely at Chelsea.”

For Blues fans this news, coupled with the imminent return of stopper Cech could well signal an improved run of form at a period of the season where slip ups will not go unnoticed, and clean sheets could prove to be priceless.  Chelsea will be hoping to put together a good run of results in their bid to prize the Premier League trophy from the hands of rivals Manchester United, a team they still have to face at Old Trafford.  For now though, they must concentrate on obtaining maximum points from tonight’s encounter with Portsmouth. Victory, as Chelsea have learned on their travels this season, will be by no means assured, and they will have to work hard for 3 points against a desolate, yet fighting Pompey who left it late to claim victory in their last game against Hull.  Victory however could well prove the basis for a championship winning run in.

Team News

Chelsea are eager to welcome back Petr Cech for tonight’s clash at Fratton Park, but must do without Branislav Ivanovich who suffered knee ligament damage at Ewood Park on Sunday.

With the exception of the man between the sticks, Chelsea are expected to line up in much the same way as they did last time out against Blackburn.  John Terry and Alex look likely to pair up once more at centre half with no news regarding the comeback of Ricardo Carvalho, and the long term absences of full-backs Ashley Cole and Jose Bosingwa means that Yuri Zhirkov should be utilised as an emergency left-back, while Paolo Ferreira resumes his position on the right of defence. Midfield and attack should remain unchanged.

The quartet of John Utaka, Hassan Yebda, Kevin-Prince Boateng and ex Chelsea man Tal-Ben Haim are set to miss out through injury, while striker Aruna Dindane is unavailable for Avram Grant’s side due to exceptional circumstances.  Dindane is being prevented from playing another game by Portsmouth administrators as a clause in his contract states that Pompey would have to pay loaning club Lens £4 million should he play another game.

Possible Line-Ups

Chelsea: Cech, Zhirkov, Alex, Terry, Ferreira, Malouda, Lampard, Mikel, Kalou, Anelka, Drogba.

Portsmouth: James, Rocha, Hreidarsson, Belhadj, Mokoena, O’Hara, Mullins, Owusu-Abeyie, Wilson, Piquionne, Smith.

Will Chelsea close the gap at the top? Will the return of Cech prove vital for Chelsea’s title hopes? Please leave your comments below…..

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