Chelsea Set To Drop More Points This Weekend?
Premiership Tips preview this weekend’s Premier League clash between Birmingham City and Chelsea.
Written by Premiership Tips.
Despite Manchester United being held to a draw and Manchester City failing to play an attacking formation and put pressure on the Birmingham defence, both sides closed the gap on Chelsea at the top of the Premier League when the current league leaders and defending champions were thrashed 3-0 at home by Sunderland.
The big winners last weekend were Arsenal of course as they were the only side in the top 4 to pick up maximum points, with a 2-1 victory at Everton. Arsene Wenger’s side have closed the gap to 2 points, and could go top of the league this weekend if they win the lunch time kick off at home to rivals Tottenham. A rival game that is always enjoyable to watch.
As for Chelsea, a point this weekend would be enough to retain their place at the top of the Premier League. A point wouldn’t be so bad, given the injury crisis in defence and that they have lost 2 of their last 3 games.
Chelsea’s Defence Depleted
An injury crisis brought on by themselves for only having three experienced centre backs in their squad. Is it time to give Jeffrey Bruma a chance? Paulo Ferreira clearly looked out of position playing alongside Branislav Ivanovic last weekend. The Serb himself not looking reliable in that position. The pair won’t have had much time to practice with each other this week after Ivanovic played 90 minutes in Serbia’s 1-0 win in Bulgaria on Wednesday.
More problems for the Chelsea defence is the rock that has been playing in front of them for the most of this season so far, Michael Essien is again suspended. Together, I don’t believe John Mikel Obi and Ramires protect the Chelsea back four as good as when Essien is there. Yury Zhirkov tends to drift out wide when playing as a central midfielder for Chelsea.
Goals Drying Up
Going forward, Florent Malouda’s goals have dried up (1 in his last 8 league games), Didier Drogba hasn’t scored on the road this season (and 0 in his last 5 league matches home and away) and Nicolas Anelka failed to impress me at Liverpool in a game I was expecting him to run the show. Chelsea’s goals drying up? Frank Lampard isn’t expected to return until December.
Imitate Sunderland – Two Up Front
Therefore Birmingham City need to take a similar approach to what Sunderland did at Stamford Bridge last weekend. For one, Alex McLeish is playing two strikers up front. While Nikola Zigic and Cameron Jerome are a different pairing to the pacey strike force of Asamoah Gyan and Danny Welbeck, the attacking intent and ability to play the ball up field to more than one player will ease the pressure on the Birmingham defence. The Sunderland pair were successful in receiving the ball down the flanks, this is something Cameron Jermone needs to be available for, and then run at the defence.
Other tactical successes Sunderland had were to press Chelsea on the ball. Craig Gardner will do a good job of this, but it is also important for Barry Ferguson and whomever else Alex McLeish plays in the centre of midfield does the same. Perhaps not a game for Alexander Hleb to start.
A key player in this game if Birmingham are to get any success from this game is going to be Sebastian Larsson. The former Gunner is a good set piece taker and a good player for Birmingham on the counter attack. Playing on the right hand side of midfield, his duties may change this weekend if McLeish took note on what Kieran Richardson’s role was last weekend. Richardson was moved from left back to right midfield and done an excellent job in man marking Ashley Cole, essentially taking the England star out of the game. Whether Birmingham use Larsson, a different player, on both right-sided players to do this job, it’s a key part of minimising this Chelsea attack.
Birmingham will have two good forms of attack to score past this Chelsea side. With the absence of John Terry and Alex, Chelsea’s set piece defending automatically becomes a concern without their two big centre halves. Where Sunderland had success against Paulo Ferreira and Branislav Ivanovic; two full backs playing in the centre was to attack through the middle. This is where Lee Bowyer could come in hand. Not that there’s anything wrong with Keith Fahey. It’s also why I think there could be a better option than to go with Nikola Zigic, but his aerial threat from set pieces may warrant his stating position. Even if he hasn’t scored directly from a set piece for Birmingham yet (Charlie Adam gave him the ball to score versus Blackpool). Kevin Phillips anyone?
Draw v the Big Four
Birmingham City have drawn their last seven matches at home to the traditional big four. These two drew 0-0 in this fixture last season, notably Joe Hart was in an unbeatable mood that day.
Should Arsenal (versus Tottenham Hotspur) and Manchester United (versus Wigan Athletic) both pick up three points at home this weekend and Chelsea fail to win at Birmingham, the Premier League title race will look very interesting once more. You can currently lay Chelsea at 1.8 in this fixture on Betfair.
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