Mind games Fergie’s only ammunition as Chelsea face battling Bolton
By Joe Carroll.
Carlo Ancelotti has responded with perfect calm to Sir Alex Ferguson’s recent comments about Chelsea’s ‘easy’ end of season run in, as the Blues look to go 4 points clear at the top of the table.
Chelsea face Bolton Wanderers tonight at Stamford Bridge hoping to pull clear of the chasing duo of United and Arsenal. United dropped two precious points on Sunday as Blackburn Rovers heaped more woe on Ferguson’s team with a goalless draw at Ewood Park. Knowing his sides fate is no longer in their hands, Ferguson resigned himself to doing the only thing left in his power: mind games.
A man who has written the book on how to unsettle your fellow pro, Ferguson sounded like a desperate man yesterday suggesting Chelsea’s “easy game” with Bolton is a foregone conclusion. But Chelsea boss Ancelotti who navigated his side to the FA Cup final on Saturday, has clearly read beyond the book, seeing his comments for what they truly are:
“I hope that Alex is correct (in saying it is an easy match),” said Ancelotti.
“No matches are easy, even if you go out and score a lot of goals. No, it’s mind games. Ferguson is clever.”
And clearly the Italian is equally ahead of the class when it comes to psyching out his opponent, and motivating (or demotivating) one another’s team. After hearing their managers astute words, the Chelsea players should be under no illusions that victory tonight will be hard fought. Like their albeit flattering semi final victory against Aston Villa, Chelsea’s stars must go into this game with the same attitude. Ancelotti’s statement a few weeks ago that ‘every game left is a cup final’ is still relevant, despite their turn around in fortunes.
Whilst Chelsea, on home turf are of course undoubted favourites to come away with three points, Owen Coyle’s side will prove that there are no easy games in the Premier League, as their Lancashire rivals and frustrators of United on Sunday are testament to. Blackburn also stopped Chelsea from going away from Ewood Park with all the points and neighbours Bolton will be desperate to show that whatever their rivals can do, they can do better.
In saying that, Chelsea are in delightful form, especially at the Bridge and are currently enjoying a four game winning run scoring it seems with every attacking move. Any sceptical Blues fans should be buoyed by these stats: Chelsea are unbeaten in their last 12 league games against the Trotters and have won seven of their last 8 home games. Couple these facts with Coyle’s extremely poor away record this season (both with Bolton and Burnley) and the outcome of the game should go in the home teams favour, despite the Northern steel that Coyle will no doubt be relying on to forge an upset.
Chelsea: The Blues came through their torrid encounter with the Wembley pitch unscathed so no fresh injury concerns for Ancelotti. Despite a near fully fit squad, the Italian is expected to ring the changes and give some players the opportunity to rest and others the chance to show what they can do. Cup hero Didier Drogba may well be rested, meaning Nicolas Anelka reclaims his starting role up front while Michael Ballack and Salomon Kalou will both be pushing for starts.
Bolton: The Trotters come to Stamford Bridge boosted by the possible return of duo Mark Davies and Ricardo Gardner. They have no new injury concerns and Coyle is likely to name an unchanged starting XI from the one that lost to Aston Villa over a week ago.
Chelsea: Cech; Zhirkov, Terry, Alex, Ferreira; Malouda, Lampard, Mikel, Ballack, Kalou; Anelka
Bolton: Jaaskelainen; Robinson, Cahill, Knight, Ricketts; Lee, Muamba, Cohen, Wilshere; K. Davies, Elmander
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