An old enemy out to Spur title misery on Chelsea
By Joe Carroll.
This weekend could prove to be a champion selecting weekend as both Premier League title contenders face neighbouring rivals in what is sure to be an explosive day of football. Current league leaders Chelsea will trek to North London on Saturday hoping to get one over on Tottenham Hotspur while second placed Manchester United will pop in to see the team next door Manchester City- looking to keep up the pressure for the title.
Before the beginning of play, Chelsea enjoy a healthy lead at the top of the Premier League with United drifting four points downstream. However Saturday will see another just as exciting race approach its climax as Spurs and City fans will tell you that their team’s need is far greater than their title contending neighbours.
Sir Alex Ferguson described Chelsea’s Tuesday night fixture with Bolton as ‘easy’ but I’m sure he won’t feel the need to put Carlo Ancelotti’s side under any doubt that tomorrow’s encounter at White Hart Lane will be anything but easy, especially after their exhilarating and long awaited win over North London rivals Arsenal. Spurs have already effectively put one of the contenders out of the title race, and Harry Redknapp’s side will be very keen to provide the fatal knock-out blow to another.
Recent regular in the Chelsea first team Joe Cole feels that the Blues are well equipped to soften their punches and has spoken of the importance of maintaining their four point lead:
“It’s in our hands and you just have to take every game as it comes. Spurs away for us on Saturday is a huge game”, said Cole.
“We’ve given ourselves a cushion now of four points and we want to keep that cushion. Three games left with a four point gap would be a great place to be“
Cole was not involved in the 1-0 win against Bolton in mid-week but could well find himself back in the team after himself and fellow midfielder Florent Malouda were rested. Malouda’s performances have been the talk of the terrace this season- his 15 goals this campaign shows the Chelsea faithful just what he is capable of and if Chelsea are to come away from North London with maximum points then they’ll be looking to the Frenchman to continue his exceptional form.
Chelsea may well have their four point cushion firmly intact by the time they kick off at 17.30, as the Manchester derby gets under way at the ridiculous Sky time of 12.45. City like Spurs are not only desperate to banish the respective defeats from earlier in the season, but to finish above the other in the race for a fourth place and the coveted Champions League qualification that both flourishing teams crave.
At this stage of the season it seems everyone has something to play for. If United come out on top at Eastlands then the incentive to keep the gap to four points should inspire Chelsea to a win. If City overcome their fierce rivals in the lunch time kick off then Chelsea will have an even bigger incentive to capitalise on another United slip up and ensure they take a seven point lead that will leave Fergie out for the count.
As is always the case at the business end of the season, it’s all ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’. One thing you can be certain of though is that this weekend will not be short of excitement, and come Saturday evening, we could have our heavyweight champion all but etched into the Premier League crown.
Chelsea: No new injury worries for Ancelotti but the rested Cole and Malouda are likely to regain their place in the XI after missing out on Tuesday. Branislav Ivanovich will be hoping to make a comeback but may have to wait due to an impressive run in the team from Paulo Ferreira.
Tottenham: Goalscoring debutant Danny Rose will miss this game through injury while Spurs will be hoping that injury prone Ledley King will come through his 3rd game after returning from injury unscathed.
Possible Line Ups:
Chelsea: Cech, Ferreira, Terry Alex, Zhirkov, Malouda, Lampard, Mikel, Deco, J.Cole, Drogba
Tottenham: Gomes, Ekotto, King, Dawson, Kaboul, Modric, Huddlestone, Bentley, Bale, Defoe, Crouch
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