Drogba to play through the pain to offer Chelsea title remedy
By Joe Carroll.
Didier Drogba is expected to return from injury tomorrow as free scoring Chelsea visit the defensive fortress of Manchester United in a first vs second clash at Old Trafford.
The return of the Chelsea hitman will encourage all concerned with the London club ahead of tomorrow’s top of the table clash in Manchester. However this weeks revelation that the Ivory Coast international has been suffering from a hernia problem will provide long term concerns for Chelsea fans.
Coach Carlo Ancelotti revealed that Drogba should be available for selection at Old Trafford but conceded that he has been suffering with a hernia for several months now. Despite the problem, Ancelotti is hopeful he will not need surgery before the end of the season- good news for Blues fans ahead of one the most anticipated games of the season.
“He is living with this problem. Sometimes he has a problem after the game but during the week he is OK.
“He doesn’t need an operation now. If he has one at the end of the season he will be ready in seven days”.
After last weeks hammering of Aston Villa, one could be forgiven for thinking that even in the absence of Drogba, goals at the Bridge will not be hard to come by (Drogba sat out of the 7-1 drubbing). However tomorrow’s opponents will be cut of a very different cloth, and will not easily allow last week’s 4-goal hero Frank Lampard, the oppornunity to repeat the feat.
Whilst Manchester United have injury concerns of their own, Sir Alex Ferguson has quality bursting from the banks and is expected to name a starting XI that is capable of severely denting Chelsea’s title aspirations- a win for the home team would open up a 4 point gap that could well be too much for the Blues to come back from.
But Chelsea have been strong of late and have been scoring goals as if they were collecting stamps. Since their Champions League exit to Inter Milan last week, their has been much for Chelsea’s followers to look forward to and the omens look good ahead of what is still decidedly an extrememly tough clash.
From the two clubs’ previous 35 Premier League meetings, Chelsea have one more win to their name, winning 11 of those encounters with the Red Devil’s close on 10. The Blues also have the highest goal tally in the league, 82 in the 32 played so far, but perhaps more importantly they have the best record against ‘top four’ opposition; winning their last 5 meetings and keeping clean sheets in 4 of those.
Manchester United will be hoping to combat their opponent’s flying forwards with a defensive record that is near perfect, conceding just nine goals in 16 Premier League games at the Theatre of Dreams.
With star performer Wayne Rooney potenitally absent for four weeks, Ferguson must reluctantly look elsewhere after the England striker has carried his team’s goalscoring burden for the entire season. The idle yet spectacular Dimitar Berbatov is the likely replacement, however the Bulgarian who is yet to fully convince Reds fans has scored less than half the amount of league goals that Rooney has this season.
Beairng their lack of firepower in mind, as well as the sore wounds Manchester United will be nursing after a dissapointing night in Munich, Chelsea may well be playing Ferguson’s side at the ideal time. Ancelotti will be hoping that they can continue their fine run of form, and will look to the returning Drogba to provide the lethal kick to the Red’s title hopes while they are down.
A flood of attacking, purposeful football from the boys in blue may well be enough to break the banks of United’s dam-like defensive resistanc that has shut out so many teams already, and Chelsea’s leading scorer will hope to hide the pain in order to inflict even more woe on the current champions.
Ancelotti has no fresh injury concerns ahead of the trip to Manchester. Drogba should replace Joe Cole who has struggled to hold down a regular place since his return from injury, but long term absentees Michael Essien, Branislav Ivanovic and Jose Bosingwa are still some way off with knee problems. Ashley Cole is progressing with his rehabilitation but is still a few weeks off returning along with fellow ankle victim Ricardo Carvalho.
Rooney misses the game after injuring his ankle midweek and is expected to be out for up to a month. Fellow striker Michael Owen is still missing after limping out of the Carling Cup final last month, whilst Danny Welbeck, Anderson and Wes Brown are also still injured. Midfielder Owen Hargreaves could return after a 19 month lay off with a knee injury.
Chelsea: Cech, Zhirkov, Terry, Alex, Ferreira, Malouda, Lampard, Mikel, Deco, Anelka, Drogba
Manchester United: Van der Sar, Neville, Vidic, Evans, Evra, Giggs, Carrick, Fletcher, Valencia, Nani, Berbatov
Who will come out on top in the Clash of the Titans?…Will Chelsea continue their goalscoring form?…How many can they put past United?…please leave your comments below…
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